Meaningful Capitalism

A Form of Capitalism That is Crucial to Our Nation’s Recovery

By Dean Bachelor, Founder

It was the late 1980’s. I was having lunch with the president of a bank in Red Wing, Minn., at the St. James Hotel, the landmark hotel founded by 11 civic-minded businessmen in 1875. I had just stepped into the role of CEO at Durkee-Atwood, the town’s second largest employer (Red Wing Shoe employed 500+ and Durkee-Atwood had 325 employees).

Located in a 100,000+ square-foot-plant located on the banks of the Mississippi River, this family-owned company had manufactured rubber belts for almost 100 years. If you owned a John Deere lawn mower, they made the belt that powered that mower. If your mother owned a Singer sewing machine, they made that small belt that allowed the needle to move up and down as she stitched the hem in your sister’s dress. If you drove to a Western Auto to purchase a new fan belt for your car because your car was overheating, Durkee-Atwood made that belt.

The board of directors had hired me to turn the company around after it had posted huge losses in the previous several years. This pillar in the community was in serious trouble.

The banker was solemn during that lunch. He had seen the company’s balance sheet. And although this family-owned business had survived for nearly a century, Durkee-Atwood was about to collapse under the weight of its own debt held by a St. Paul bank that was about to foreclose. He looked at me and said, “Dean, I trust you understand the importance of what you are doing. I have more than 300 of your employees as customers of my bank (in the late 80’s, there were only two banks in Red Wing and his was the most prominent). Our bank has home mortgages, auto loans, snowmobile loans, home improvement loans – you name it – we have it. And if this company closes its doors, this town may not survive. The ripple effect of losing hundreds of jobs in this small town would be hard to recover from.” The stories I remembered my grandfather sharing about the Great Depression... MORE
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