Keller urges business leaders to face new reality

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY, Ga. -- Cascade Engineering CEO Fred Keller urged an Empower Albany Summit crowd to support poorer members of the community by changing the rules of capitalism.

"The brand of capitalism we practice in the United State is different from other forms of capitalism around the world," Keller said Thursday at the summit, which was put together by the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, Strive2Thrive and the city of Albany.

"How we practice capitalism is variable. Profit is not bad. It exists for the company and its shareholders. But we've had structural changes occur to our economy over the past several years, and we can't use the same looks of the past."

Keller, the summit's keynote speaker at the Albany Civic Center, said the new reality will force businesses to look beyond self-interest to include ecological and community concerns.

"We're going to have to operate under a new set of rules," he said. "This structural change is important to our world, important to our country and important to Albany.

Community involvement is where the Strive2Thrive initiative comes in.

Formed two years ago by Cynthia George and John Culbreath, Strive2Thrive's goal is to bring families out of poverty -- permanently.

After 17 weeks of training in fiscal responsibility, anger management and relationship building, the program's "graduates" will have goals and the training to obtain them. With continued coaching and support, these families are setting their minds on quality housing, education, employment and a better life than most have ever known.

"The unit of change that can occur most rapidly is at the community level," Keller said, urging the business leaders to listen to Strive2Thrive's plans.

"We don't want to look at where we've been or where we are, but rather where we are going," George said. "Why did it (Strive2Thrive) work so well here? The difference in Albany and other cities in Georgia is we have a huge community spirit. This is the right thing for us to do for our businesses, our community and our children.

"We want to make Albany better for everybody."