Civic Soapbox
7:30 am
Fri November 9, 2012

Government's Role in the Economy

In this installment of WMRA's occasional series The Civic Soapbox, Larry Stopper, business owner and resident of Afton, shares his thoughts about the government's role in supporting small business.


- - -
Civic Sopabox listener essays essays represent only the opinion of the writer and do not represent WMRA or any other entity. More essays including opposing views are welcome.  Email essays (around 3 minutes long please) to WMRA "at" JMU "dot" EDU.

Government's Role in the Economy (Transcript)

Am I solely responsible for building the business I operate or did I get help from the government?  This has become a major question on the presidential campaign trail. As one who has owned and operated a number of small businesses over the years I’d like to offer my thoughts on the subject.

The simple answer is that I alone came up with the ideas and chased my dreams of business success.  But that of course is just the simple answer.  To really understand the argument about whether the government has created the conditions for my business success, I needed to look below the surface and appreciate how governmental involvement in infrastructure development and export support helped establish the environment where my businesses could thrive.

The government has for the last 200 years been deeply involved in building the infrastructure to allow business to succeed.  From building the Erie Canal, to the land grants for railroads, to the interstate highway system and finally the creation of the internet, governments play a quiet but forceful role in developing an environment that helps entrepreneurs follow their ideas.

When I first opened Heartwood International in 1993 it was designed to export wood products to Europe.  The idea came to me at a seminar I attended at Virginia Tech.  In order to develop customers for my products I used Federal government export support programs to make initial contacts.  When those programs did not work out, I turned to the state of Virginia agricultural products export promotions and through the contacts there I met my first and most important customer.  To export my wood, I used the Virginia inland port in Front Royal and the port of Norfolk.

Did I have annoying and seemingly unnecessary government regulations to deal with – yes, but could I have made my business successful without the assistance of government – no.  Thanks to various programs and the internet, which was created by the Pentagon, I can run a successful international business from the bustling metropolis of Afton, VA.

I also created a successful recycling company based in Charlottesville in the early 90’s.  While I never used any government programs to get that business off the ground, without the government run Charlottesville recycling center and the support the city of Charlottesville gives to recycling, that business would never have made it.

So did I build it?  Absolutely, and I am proud that my businesses are still thriving.  But I am under no illusions that I did it alone and in a vacuum.  Whether it’s the police, the fire department, the schools or any of the social structures that form the fabric of our society, we are in this together and very few businesses could thrive without that structure.

- - -
Civic Sopabox listener essays essays represent only the opinion of the writer and do not represent WMRA or any other entity. More essays including opposing views are welcome.  Email essays (around 3 minutes long please) to WMRA "at" JMU "dot" EDU.

Tags: