Accepting a Hubert H. Humphrey Public Leadership Award earlier this month, Jim Campbell spoke about his upbringing in Byron, Minnesota, where his father the banker chaired the school board, the manager of the co-op was the volunteer fire chief, and other business owners ran community institutions.
In fact, the business community was indistinguishable from the community itself. The business people well recognized how their prosperity was intertwined with the prosperity of the place where they did business.
It was a picture of America that's familiar to anyone who grew up in a small town. Yes, there was no doubt some Gopher Prairie boosterism and self-dealing in those relationships, but in general, Campbell's nostalgic recollection is probably reasonably accurate. It made me reflect how local community interest can become blurred in the cause marketing/Big Box/high finance economy. And how public leadership is in danger of becoming a political specialty rather than a normal expectation of business leadership.
The Itasca Project founder and former Norwest Bank executive Campbell is one stellar example of how that old-fashioned business/public relationship can still work on a larger scale in the big city. Progressives, who may reflexively demean business for greed and contributing to social ills, need occasional reminders that Minnesota has more people like Campbell than Gordon Gekko.
— Charlie Quimby