Good works are good business


By Pat Rodgers, President & CEO, Rodgers Builders, Inc.
Special to The Charlotte Observer, published November 24, 2013

As a builder, I’m always proud of what our community has been able to accomplish with bricks and mortar. This includes some of the projects my company has had the privilege of building – from the Levine Center for the Arts that expands our city’s cultural offerings, to Ballantyne Corporate Park that attracts new businesses to our region, to the BB&T Ballpark that is still taking shape beneath our skyline. These physical spaces create a sense of place that is essential in building community.

But as a long-time Charlottean, I’m even prouder of what we are able to accomplish when we work together, in community service, building relationships and connections that become personal, creating a sense of belonging to something greater than the sum of its parts.

As chairman of the Charlotte Chamber several years ago, I was heartened to see businesses engage in all kinds of community service. Even during recession, our corporate community rebuilt neighborhoods, worked in soup kitchens and collected food, coats and shoes for people in need. These businesses understand that Charlotte’s success is rooted in collaboration between public, private and charitable entities. They also know they gain far more than they expend when their employees rally around a community project.

You can call this “enlightened self-interest,” the philosophy that says people acting to further the interests of others ultimately serve their own interests, too. But as governments cut services and our underclass grows, putting business to work for the sake of community is simply the right thing to do.

As our company turns 50 in December, our employees took on a number of community service projects throughout the year to celebrate our anniversary. Since May, we’ve built bridges along the Carolina Thread Trail, constructed a LEED Platinum Habitat house in northeast Charlotte and last month helped “Finish the Wall.”

Finish the Wall is a novel charity that exists to complete humanitarian efforts left undone by other well-intentioned organizations. In this case, the “wall” was an apartment building for low-income families in west Charlotte’s Jackson Park, under construction off and on since 2004. The building needed electrical work, plumbing, windows and doors, flooring and fencing, and an expansion to make room for more families. So each weekend in October, a variety of volunteer groups from Charlotte took a turn working to make this building a home.

While this and other projects require time and energy beyond our normal work day, they are a secret ingredient in our company’s longevity.

So as I take stock today, I want to encourage other CEOs – especially those with companies new to the region – to get involved and stay involved, even when resources are tight.

As a Charlotte native, my husband, B.D. Rodgers, understood when he started our company in 1963 that an essential ingredient to a community’s success was the engagement of its corporate citizens. As a business owner, he also knew the company would “profit” from its community service work.

We’ve found that broadened exposure to people and organizations beyond our own circle enriches our perspectives and enhances creativity. We see improved morale, loyalty and productivity.

Through the years, these projects also have helped us:

• Identify leaders and new skill sets in employees;

• Build confidence, listening and decision-making abilities;

• Reinforce core values of compassion and caring;

• Network with other businesses and demonstrate the quality of our work;

• Attract talent and build goodwill in our communities.

As our company aspires to another 50 years, we believe our legacy of community service will continue. My hope is that every Charlotte company will embrace this work as good for business and good for community.