By Andrew Young
Several articles have recently appeared castigating me for being a rather successful businessman. As though fifty years of high risk, low pay public service is somehow being betrayed by my turn to a profit making enterprise.
Actually it was my experience as Mayor of Atlanta that taught me the limits of public service and the need to move toward the private sector even to accomplish the goals of the city of Atlanta.
With state and federal funds virtually drying up for cities, we learned that private money markets, municipal bonds, private investors and corporations were the best available funds for urban development.
After attracting $70 billion in private direct investment from 1,100 companies, creating more than a million new jobs in the 8 years from 1982-1990, as Mayor of Atlanta, and following it with the $2.5 billion Centennial Olympic Games in 1996, we coined the term “Public Purpose Capitalism.” The public sector defines the project but then pursued private finance, construction and management.
Following a “debt free” Olympic Games which spawned 185,000 new jobs, and an economic boom which continues to this day, I decided at age 65 to devote the rest of my life to sharing the lessons I’ve learned with the African continent and developing world.
Partnering with Carlton Masters, a successful Jamaican born banker, we formed GoodWorks International to assist African governments in facilitating development with private sector partners. Atlanta’s success was based largely on honesty, efficiency, courtesy and vision, since we had no raw material and natural resources.
Honesty (integrity and transparency), efficiency (bureaucratic accountability) courtesy (it’s easier to work with respectful people) and vision (seeing things as they can be, and charting a course to make it happen).
We’ve worked with many nations of the world and a variety of corporate clients. We’re problem solvers who seek “win-win” solutions in every conflict. Much of our profits are re-invested in young African, Asian, and American professionals who want to take on major challenges of global development.
I learned from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that “it’s not enough to be a Good Samaritan; picking up people after they’ve been robbed and beaten. You have to “change the Jericho road,” so that a stable socio-economic order protects the people in advance when possible. That’s why it’s important to develop macro-economic approaches to global development.
Israel’s former Prime Minister is fond of saying “even if you want to distribute money like a socialist, you’ve got to make money like a capitalist”. But our effort is to help the poor to participate in the generation of wealth themselves, and to help multi-national corporations to develop local sub-contractors as a major part of their supply chain.
We’ve been at it for ten years and have staff offices in Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Angola, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Korea.
It is our belief that public purpose capitalism is an important factor in global development. We have worked with firms from many countries with significant success. Business, must meet the needs of nations, corporations, and employees to be profitable.
Making everyone a winner is our objective; we’ve never yet turned down a challenge, and we’ve never yet failed to resolve a problem.
Our success is based on almost 100 years of relationships in the developing world, between my partner Carlton Masters and me. Together we spend over 400 days a year circling the globe and solving problems.
It’s a tough way to earn a living and we take on tough problems but in the end, my New Orleans home-boy Louis Armstrong was right - “It’s a wonderful world,” especially when you try to love everybody and treat everybody right and with respect.