Choosing an economy that favors small business
“Most of us are in our 60s.”
Jim Bostic is the co-owner and founder of Safeguard Composite Concrete Inc in Spencer, West Virginia. They’ve grown from one employee to 9 in less than two years, by patenting the first water-resistant, anti-microbial concrete on the market. No stain, no scorch: perfect for outdoor furniture, countertops, restaurants, and eventually medical settings.
You get the feeling this small business is on the verge of very big things. But Jim and partner Matt Erb are already worried about who comes after them. Most of their employees are in their 60s; they’ve watched the generation behind them leave West Virginia or get lost to the drug crisis. To grow the company, will they have to move someday? Will they have to sell?
Jim and Matt, like all successful entrepreneurs, have had some luck along the way—a friendly EDA and support from the MOV regional council. They’ve also made their own luck, by hiring good people and playing off each other’s strengths.
“He’s the visionary, and I’m the skeptic,” offers Matt. “Luckily, neither one of us takes things personally.”
We can have a state where more Matts and Jims get the chance to tinker and invent, and build companies from the ground up. That will take capital from a State Bank. That will take a tax code that offers more benefits to local businesses than out-of-state monopolies. Both Jim and Matt long for a government that could have given them a simple roadmap to follow when they started.
But economic development is not solely measured by how we treat entrepreneurs. At the end of the day, companies need workers. Communities need young families. Grandparents want grandkids nearby. Economic development means building a state where people want to live. Public schools where teachers long to teach. Child care and higher education for all. Roads for driving, water for drinking, broadband for surfing (and homework).
We will win that economy only when we refuse to let them divide us—small business owners versus workers, Democrat versus Republican. Every time an out-of-state monopoly buys a politician, life gets harder for small businesses and workers alike. If we stick together, and invest in ourselves, we can win. Jim and Matt are ready to fight for that economy.