The October issue of the PRT featured an interview of Pat Risner, South32’s president of the Hermosa Project. The article contained references to two words that seem to be appearing with greater frequency when discussing issues of concern between the public and corporations: “stakeholders” and “shareholders.”
These words are well defined in former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich’s book “The Common Good.” In post WWII America, corporate responsibilities were to “stakeholders,” defined as workers, towns and cities with headquarters and facilities and, last but not least, the country.
This perspective changed in the 1980s when the concept switched to a corporation placing their emphasis on “shareholders,” abandoning the “stakeholders.” Corporate focus shifted to the bottom line of maximum monetary returns to investors without regard for the needs of the general public.
In this article, it appears to me that South 32 is attempting to let the “stakeholders” back into the picture. They recognize the town’s vision of tourism and restoration as important components of Patagonia’s future as demonstrated by their participation in the Community Foundation of Southern Arizona.
They are making a substantial amount of money available in the form of grants that will address present and future needs of the entire community. For example, a grant was awarded by that Foundation in August to repair and paint the outside of the Patagonia Museum which is housed in the town’s original elementary school. As a contributing member of the museum, I know a task of that size that cost thousands of dollars and would have involved hundreds of volunteered hours would not have been accomplished without South32’s investment.
I understand there is concern about the political implications of accepting money from a mining corporation, but I urge those of you who are decision makers in a local organization to set politics aside and consider the benefit to your group.
As individuals, accepting a grant or a donation does not mean your opinion or your vote on matters associated with South32 has to change. We do, however, have responsibilities as members of the community to do whatever we can to further the town’s plan by investing in the future.
That investment comes in the form of tasks, both small and large, that range from removing “yard art” that was once a dishwasher in the 1990s to upgrading the sewage treatment facility. Small tasks can be accomplished on our own; the larger tasks require an outside investment.
I am not advocating that we close our minds to the history of mining activities in this town or that we blindly accept South32’s assurances on face value. In fact, my favorite t-shirt sports the logo “I will believe corporations are people when Texas executes one.” I believe the advantage we have locally is dedicated, well educated people who care about Patagonia and are willing to work to ensure the community goals are progressing. What is needed by all involved, whether an individual or a multi-billion-dollar corporation, is transparency, civility and cooperation.