A few months ago, just as I started my tenure as president of the Colorado Business Roundtable, I was given a copy of the book, "A Love Letter to the American Anti-Hero: Big Business." The book explores common criticisms against American business — that it’s selfish, profit-driven, or even corrupt. The truth, however, is that success is interconnected. When business succeeds, people succeed, and Colorado succeeds.
The Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs of leading U.S. companies, has recently laid out a framework that highlights the importance of this interconnected, inclusive growth. The framework emphasizes the importance of the entire community, not just shareholders. Customers, employees, suppliers, and communities are all essential stakeholders that support and reap the benefits of a company’s ability to invest, grow and innovate.
Smart businesses have been operating in this function all along knowing that profits and purpose go hand in hand. Every day, businesses provide Coloradans across our state with income and benefits, valuable products and services, tax revenue, and funding for vital charities.
During the pandemic, Colorado businesses have risen to the challenge, restructuring supply lines, reimagining ways to deliver services, and going above and beyond to support relief efforts.
This understanding of the role of business will be more critical than ever as we look to businesses to reopen, rehire, and recharge our economic recovery in the short and long term.
We face many challenges in the coming days. Many businesses have shut down or are at risk of closing, and our unemployment figures are staggering. And, we can see the economic devastation that will linger in the lives of Coloradans from all walks of life.
As the business community begins to come back to work, we ask public policy makers to embrace the following principles to assist the business community in this critical recovery:
- Business is good for Coloradans. A long-term, well-paying job with benefits is inherently better and more stable than unemployment. Pro-business public policy creates an environment where businesses can hire, expand operations, invest in capital expenditures, etc. At the end of the day, pro-business policies are pro-people policies.
- Profits and purpose go hand in hand. Profit is not “bad.” Profit is essential for a business, or nonprofit for that matter, to survive and thrive. Policy makers should enact policies that help businesses make profit and get rid of policies that hinder profits.
- Don’t kill the golden goose. Any legislation that limits a business’ ability to reopen quickly and safety, or restricts entire sectors unnecessarily, should be shunned. Anything that restricts economic recovery should be discarded immediately or tabled for another time, especially in key economic sectors. The same goes for the proposed graduated income tax. This is not a time for a punitive tax system. Let’s keep Colorado’s tax code competitive, fair and easy to navigate.
In A Love Letter to the American Anti-Hero, the author conducts a critical examination of business, particularly big business. Toward the end, he summarizes his views with this reflection “…on closer examination, (business) is a better bargain than it might seem at first. Indeed, at its best, business gives our lives more scope for the heroic as we can use the outputs of business to satisfy our own creative desires and to better our lives.”
In the post-pandemic future, the ability to restart our economy will depend on this understanding of the role businesses play — creating a thriving economy that works for everyone and ultimately betters our lives. Business is important in normal times. Now, the policies we set in coming days will affect the livelihood of millions in Colorado.
Through the Governor’s Council on Economic Stabilization and Growth, private sector experts, labor organizations, and public sector elected leaders throughout the state are working together in a collaborative way. And, we’re seeing regional plans and flexibility within industry sectors. As we move to a safer-at-home model and ask businesses to reopen, rehire and recharge our economic recovery, it’s essential that we continue to find common ground on basic principles that bring businesses back to life, not set them up for failure, and provide an environment for economic opportunity again for Coloradans.
Debbie Brown is president of the Colorado Business Roundtable.