I was lucky to get to talk with Roman this morning. He shared how he is a Seattle native like me — but then clarified how he grew up in St. Louis. Roman then paused, and I could tell that he was really happy living in Seattle, as he wanted to share more.
Roman said that industry in Seattle has traditionally “paid it forward” to the local community. Companies like Boeing, Microsoft, and Starbucks all give back to the region in ways that prevent economic disparity from getting out of hand. He went on to point out that in contrast, when he was growing up in St. Louis, they had many successful companies in the region like Ralston-Purina, TWA (a once prosperous airline), and a few other companies I used to hear about. According to Roman, these companies didn’t actively give back to the community — which resulted in four classes: the rich, the richer, the poor, and the poorer. Roman shared his look of being puzzled as to why one city would behave one way, and another city could behave a different way. He gave a shrug of reluctance and said, “I wish the mayors of cities like mine knew what the other mayors were doing — to have avoided their own city’s demise.”
As a fellow 50-plus year old, listening to Roman’s wisdom was a special gift out of the blue. It was a stark reminder of how important it is for companies to protect the commons — to grow the communities in which they exist — for not doing so is at their own peril in the long term. In the short term, wealth can be made — but if it is at the expense of the commons, then the proverbial tragedy (of the commons) will not be far away. —JM