The LABI Report: Businesses integral part of community

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 13, 2002


There have been a number of state and national media reports lately making businesses out to be heartless, sterile entities that are nemeses to society.

Critics and demagogues love to dehumanize businesses by portraying them as being selfish and uncaring. Next August, I will celebrate my 30th year of representing businesses in Louisiana.

While I have encountered a few business owners whose policies and activities I felt left much to be desired, I could say the same about some individuals in labor unions, governmental agencies and churches. But in my many years of working on a daily basis with business and professional men and women, what I have learned is that the most successful ones are those who are anything but “dehumanized.”

Take any community in this country and ponder what would happen if the men and women who take risks and operate enterprises were not around. Certainly the jobs and standard of living of the citizens would be reduced, but that is not the issue here.

When the Little League teams take the field, whose uniforms are they wearing? Whose signs line the outfield fences to pay for the lights and other costs? And who are often seen in the coaches’ boxes and dugouts, urging the kids on and teaching them sportsmanship and self-confidence?

It is quite often the men and women in the business community who, at the end of a long day, find time to give of themselves, not for profit or gain, but for the enjoyment of working with kids.

And speaking of giving, when the United Way, scouting organizations, local hospitals, universities, churches and the homeless shelters come calling, whom do they call first?

They call the human beings who run businesses – the individuals who give not simply because it is a tax write-off, but because they care about the community they share with their fellow citizens.

When scholarships are awarded during high school graduations each spring, who writes the checks that allow young men and women, who might not otherwise go to college, the opportunity to add value to their lives?

More often than not, they come from businesses, large and small. And who puts up the “Adopt a School” signs that adorn most schools today? What do those signs say about the commitment from the business community to share their resources and talents with schools and students all over this country?

I remember the tragic bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City.

I recall sending a brief letter to members of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, asking them to consider making a contribution to a fund created by the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce to assist small businesses whose operations were interrupted by the tragedy. That one letter resulted in more than $50,000 in contributions from LABI members, more than the amount received from any state outside of Oklahoma.

And when the World Trade Center was attacked on Sept. 11, members of LABI and businesses from all across the nation poured money into relief efforts and special funds established for the victims. I was especially proud of the fact that numerous LABI members obtained one-year memberships in the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, so it could survive the catastrophic loss to its dues revenue.

The business-bashers in this state and nation can only succeed in their mission if they can take all human elements out of businesses and turn them into something impersonal and threatening. If the public sees the business community only as offices and desks, perhaps the critics with their hidden agendas can succeed.

But the citizens of this country would do well to remember the faces that they see in church and school, at civic club meetings and at the voting precincts, and understand that “business” lives and breathes beside them every day – and shares their dreams for their communities.

DAN JUNEAU is the president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry.