Ice cream mogul advises: business is power, use it well | NevadaAppeal.com

Ice cream mogul advises: business is power, use it well

Becky Bosshart
Appeal Staff writer

SPARKS – Business is the most powerful force at work in the nation, a prosperous entrepreneur said Wednesday night.

It has social responsibilities that go beyond the bottom line.

Jerry Greenfield, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc., said at the 22nd Annual Governor’s Industry Appreciation Awards that his company grew into a $300 million ice-cream empire by making profit and giving back to the community.

“If business is the most powerful force at work and if people running the businesses are good people, why do we not see more being done by businesses in our communities?” he told about 800 Northern Nevada leaders and professionals at John Ascuaga’s Nugget in Sparks. “The reason is, you only get what you measure – profitability.”

Greenfield urged business leaders to create a two-part bottom line. One measures profit, the other measures how much you give back to the community.

He said there are limitless ways to give back, such as buying supplies from organizations that employ at-risk youth, or by creating franchises that benefit nonprofit groups.

Gary Eckman, owner of Eckman Industries Nevada, of Mound House, said this balance is challenging, particularly if you don’t make as much money as Ben & Jerry’s.

“I feel good about employing people and being able to give them a future,” Eckman said. “We have a Simple IRA for our employees, matching up to 3 percent, plus health care and dental.”

Ben & Jerry’s, a public company, was bought by a large corporation, Unilever, about five years ago, a decision Greenfield said he resisted.

He said organized human industry plus money equals power, and if businesses lead with values, profits will follow.

Business is powerful because it provides consumers with a product.

It employs and it generates tax revenue, said Carl Van Allen, president of Accupart International of Mound House.

“We have to be good corporate citizens,” he said. “You have to be able to take care of your employees with 401K, health coverage and by giving back to the community.”

Gov. Kenny Guinn, speaking at his last governor’s awards dinner before he leaves office, said the state must keep funding educational programs, such as the Millennium Scholarship.

Getting Nevada teens in college and attracting high tech companies will bring livable wages here, he said.

• Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at bbosshart@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1212.