Excuse me, Mr. President

By Mike D'Alexander

As a small business owner, I take great exception to President Obama’s recent public remark: “If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build it. Somebody else made that happen.”

August 2012 - As a small business owner, I take great exception to President Obama’s recent public remark: “If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build it. Somebody else made that happen.” It’s a revealing comment. After all, he’s never spent a day of his life in the private sector. Ironically, the same can be said of the people that surround him. A majority of Obama’s administration have no private sector experience.

This type of rhetoric is a blatant slap in the face to generations of small business owners and entrepreneurs throughout the country.

During my 20 years in business, I have had the good fortune to meet many small business owners and entrepreneurs in the metalworking industry. I can tell you most, if not all, are decent, hardworking people whose companies play an active role in their local communities. These job creators will tell you they take pride in the fact that they are employing people in their towns across America or that they are third- or fourth-generation business owners. And most will tell you their success is due in large part to years of hard work and sacrifice, sleepless nights, financial stress, a little luck and most importantly, the people they employ.

More closely to home, my family’s metals roots go back to my father’s father. At 18 years old, speaking very little English, he boarded a ship from Italy to America and never looked back. He was a musician who arrived alone with nothing more than a pocketful of change and a clarinet.

When I asked my Dad why my grandfather would risk leaving home, family and everything that’s familiar to go to an unknown land halfway around the world, Dad simply said, “opportunity,” without skipping a beat. Grandpa would later start a family and work his way up to general manager of a metals manufacturing company in Cleveland. When offered the position of president, he politely declined, citing his lack of command of the English language. In all those years he never took a day of vacation.

My father started his career as an advertising salesman with Steel Magazine. Later on he would marry and have four sons. As a young husband and father, he used every dime he had to purchase a packaging magazine and start a publishing company. During the next 17 years, his company would grow to 27 magazines and 265 employees. It’s a great success story—just one of many. When I asked him why he would risk so much as a young husband and father, he responded, “The drive to create my own business superseded any pitfalls I could think of.”

Didn’t build it? Somebody else made that happen? Excuse me, Mr. President. With all due respect, you don’t know what you are talking about. You have never created a job, ran a business or met payroll. You would be better off leaving the subject alone.  MM

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