Is your town or city experiencing growth? Economic development can be a great gift to residents.The creation of new jobs and the amenities that local government officials offer to attract corporations can increase property values and improve the quality of life for residents. Some officials offer major corporations tax breaks as an incentive to move all or portions of their operations to the area. These tax breaks and other incentives can total millions of dollars for one corporation, while some senior adults in those same communities suffer because they do not have consistent access to food or transportation.
I do not believe that business owners should be strong armed into supporting any cause or program. As I wrote in an earlier article, many entrepreneurs are vessels of love. We strive to share our profits to do good in the world. That's the true calling of an entrepreneur. At the same time, business owners who are given special benefits in the name of economic development initiatives, have a social responsibility to give back to the community where those taxes were collected. I believe that one of the best use of corporate donations and sponsorship dollars should be to help eradicate poverty, especially among senior adults.
Too many senior citizens are struggling to live on a fixed income. Some are homeless. Some are forced to make decisions about using what money they have to pay for medicine or for food. Some are homebound, and don't have children or an adult caregiver to help them with bathing and other activities of daily living. Some corporations give back to programs that are aimed at the youth or college students. What about senior citizens?
What about veterans? There are men and women who sacrificed their lives and left their families so that all of us in the business community can have the freedom to work for ourselves. Some of them are living in poverty, while corporations are enjoying million dollar tax breaks.
This is not about class warfare. I'm in the business community and the last thing I want is anyone forcing me to give to initiatives I don't believe in. This is an open invitation for corporations to be gifts to communities and to have a positive impact. Parks are nice. Ensuring that senior adults are not starving is much better. Bike trails are pretty. Running a shuttle program so that seniors can visit their doctors and attend community events to avoid isolation is far more beautiful. Leaders in charge of community involvement and social responsibility should take a closer look at the plight of seniors in the communities they serve.
Government officials should not miss opportunities to engage corporations in the fight against senior poverty. I have met with corporate leaders who seemed unaware of the reality of senior poverty when relocating to an area. Let's put it on the table at the same time that tax incentives are being discussed. At the very least, corporations can make employees and leaders aware of volunteer opportunities with existing organizations who serve older adult populations.
I hope corporate leaders will think much bigger than just listing volunteer opportunities. With cuts to federal, state and local funding that would otherwise provide basic transportation, meal delivery and affordable housing to senior citizens, there are tremendous, dare I say, heroic opportunities to serve. Choose a community development priority for senior citizens that match your business goals and the change you want to see take place in the world. Start your own program or fund existing programs so that providers can expand their reach. Take a percent of the savings you gain from tax incentives and honor the elders in that community who have built a place for your company to call home.