May 30 2017

Dunn & Done: The Power of Work and the Power of Giving Back

The power of work. The power of giving back.

These are the themes of today’s celebratory event and what a celebration it is. With the astounding $500,000 gift from Orange County’s premiere litigation firm, Greenberg Gross, Goodwill of Orange County will be able to dramatically expand its workforce development services.  These include quality education, training and employment services empower individuals with disabilities and other barriers to traditional employment to be productive and independent.

The power of work.  As president and CEO of the Orange County Business Council, I know the top companies in the world recognize the importance of well-trained workers to fill a myriad of jobs that make up a strong economy.  Orange County is a remarkable place. America’s 6th largest county by population, more than 21 states in the union, great ethnic diversity—a minority majority with 46% of all residents speaking a language other than English at home—a competitive advantage in a global economy—with 3.7% unemployment, and diverse industry sectors, we have recovered well from not only the Great Recession, but developed a diverse economy well-beyond when aerospace or real estate development dominated alone.

The good news: we are the medical device capital of the world. The toll road capital of the state of California with the best in innovation.  The master-planned community and HOA capital of the world.  Gaming, surf and sport, software development, health care, advanced manufacturing, business and professional services, and, of course, ground zero for the world’s tourism industry. We have a remarkable diversity in tech and start-ups and strong trends in educational attainment.

Yet even the great OC weather cannot make up for some troubling signs including financial instability in a high cost county, the rising mental health concerns for children.  The county is fast becoming the nation’s largest old folk’s home—boomers retiring in place with inadequate housing opportunities and little room for the next generation to fill jobs and contribute.  $28 per hour is needed to afford a one bedroom apartment yet 68% of OC jobs pay less than that.  In fact, OC is losing millennials and Gen Z’ers faster than any other region in the nation but one.  Every business, government agency and non-profit must take the challenge to add their own unique strategies to keep young workers from leaving and all workers employed.

Thus, no matter what the sector, helping people with disabilities find and maintain employment couldn’t be more important or more timely.  One report found some time ago that 80% of people with disabilities do not have jobs.  Veterans, youth, the full spectrum of development disabilities—Goodwill finds a way to develop a pool of workers with life skills, employment skills, and career growth—with solutions for business to fill their jobs.

As anyone who has ever enjoyed the satisfaction of achieving a professional goal understands, there is an intrinsic value to working that cannot be denied. As individuals, we innately crave purpose, a sense of accomplishment, self-respect fostered by accomplishment, and acknowledgement for our contributions to life around us. As the one of the largest employers of people with disabilities in the United States, Goodwill helps thousands of people earn this self-respect and sense of accomplishment every year.

The power of giving back.  Renowned economist Milton Friedman argued that “the business of business is business.”  Keep your head down, add shareholder value, increase profits, no social distractions, and the rest will take care of itself.  Fortunately, today more than 90% of major businesses have specific programs dedicated to corporate social responsibility, lifting your head up to look around you; seeing the world on how it might impact your business, that shareholder value, with a commitment to philanthropic, employee engagement and other benevolent activities.  CSR is a good thing as far as it goes but the greater opportunity for the business community is to find ways to leverage networks, capital, their people and their technology to help create practical, sustainable, market based approaches that help benefit society in general and low income or underserved populations in particular.

Thus, the remarkable power of giving back we witness today with Greenberg Gross’s amazing gift—the economic impact of this center is astounding with $26 million pumped into the local economy.  That’s 93 cents of every dollar Goodwill earns going right back into more programs.  From 2012 serving 9,000 people, to 2017 where more than 25,000 people will be served—Greenberg Gross will accelerate that growth.  When Goodwill thrives, Orange County thrives and Greenberg Gross thrives.

Thank you Alan.  Thank you Wayne.  And all the firm.  Congratulations in sustaining the power of work and fueled by the power of giving back embodied in the Greenberg Gross Center.

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