Motivation for the Marketplace
Motivation for the Marketplace
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…the loss of another large company raises important questions about business ethics, profitability and community health.
Needed: A Business Ethic that Values Community

    Fina, Inc. disappointed just about everyone who cares about the quality of life in Dallas last week by announcing it would relocate its corporate headquarters to a new site in Plano. For twenty-five years the oil company has held down a landmark location on North Central Expressway.

    Fina CEO Ron Haddock told the Dallas Morning News the decision to leave was made at the "last minute" after days of serious, in-house deliberation. Evidently the economics of the move displaced all other considerations. "This company and I have a big stake in Dallas. It was a tough decision. But building our headquarters in Legacy is the best thing for our company...We have more room for growth at Legacy, and the cost was less", Haddock noted (Dallas Morning News, 1/31/97,A-l, 24). Even though the city of Dallas did everything possible to keep the company (including offering tax incentives equal to those provided by Plano), lifestyle and location issues for employees, the possibility of developing a "campus" style complex, and a savings of $5 million led to the decision to leave the city for the more attractive suburban location.

    Fina's move is not unusual. Even though a counter surge at times seems to be building, the national trend continues to see large business powers moving away from the central cities to outlying areas. Obviously, the move concerned Haddock, a respected civic leader in Dallas. Not to pick on Fina, but the story of the loss of another large company raises important questions about business ethics, profitability and community health.

    Community life in inner city Dallas suffers from the effect of "institutional erosion". The existence of a genuine sense of community depends on the health and welfare of a number of key institutions. Among the most important are church, school, family, the arts, government and business. For just a moment, consider the status of each of these important community institutions here in Dallas. Rate the health of each of them. For community to thrive and for the city's citizens to achieve and excel, these community anchors must remain grounded, stable and immovable. Further, the leaders of these necessary community institutions ought to be linked in a tight network of cooperation, on-going dialog and mutual guidance.

    Given the staggering problems associated with urban living in the center of America's great cities, could it be the time has come for the institutional leaders and decision makers of the nation's powerful business interests to hammer out a new ethic for the strengthening and building of community? True enough, business executives report to share holders. But, what about consumers who create the communities where goods and services are purchased? What about public school children in poor neighborhoods? What about a larger, nobler, grander view of the role of business in the whole of urban community life? What about urban schools, urban government, urban employment and urban families? What about the circulation of wealth in city neighborhoods outside the comfortable suburbs?

    Dallas, and cities like it all across the nation, face formidable new problems. Without the formation of new partnerships among the institutions that make community possible, the challenges presented by welfare reform, public education, infrastructure renewal, and new job creation could very well overcome our central cities.

    Fina saved $5 million by choosing the Legacy location in Plano and gained control of a larger and more picturesque site for future development. As a business venture, no one could fault the company. Dallas as a community lost much, much more. What price tag would you place on a loss involving so much more than dollars and cents? Possibly the time has come for the development of a new ethical paradigm in American corporate life and work relating to the necessity of understanding, preserving and supporting community and its importance for the survival of the American way of life into the next century.


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