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Little Rock chamber hears views on capitalism; young people in dark, 2 execs state

by David Smith | November 8, 2018 at 2:13 a.m.

Warren Stephens, chairman and chief executive officer of Stephens Inc., and Ken Langone, co-founder of Home Depot and founder of Invemed Associates, shared their convictions about capitalism at the annual meeting of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce this week.

The chamber held its 153rd annual meeting Monday at the Statehouse Convention Center.

Stephens and Langone said they believe there is an urgent need to elevate the opinions and understanding of capitalism among Generations Y and Z. They hope to close the perception gap through education and outreach.

Stephens and Stephens Inc. are doing so through the award-winning "This Is Capitalism" multimedia campaign.

"This Is Capitalism" explores the free enterprise system.

"Stephens Inc. launched 'This Is Capitalism,' to shed light on the positive impact that capitalism has had on America," Stephens said when his firm and Economics Arkansas partnered to create a pre-kindergarten-to-12th-grade free enterprise education program.

Stephens Inc. granted $50,000 to aid in teaching the principles of capitalism.

"[Capitalism] is a message that we are particularly focused on sharing with today's youth, as many possess a limited understanding of the free market," Stephens said.

In his book, I Love Capitalism, Langone gives an account of how he grew up as a poor boy on Long Island, N.Y., to become one of America's most successful businessmen.

Langone calls the book his love song to capitalism.

"I'm living proof," that capitalism works, Langone says in his book. "It can work for anybody and everybody. Absolutely anybody is entitled to dream big and absolutely everybody should dream big."

Langone grew up during World War II and just after.

"There was never much money," Langone said in the book. "My father was an excellent plumber, though not a financially successful one. We lived from paycheck to paycheck.

"Because he couldn't make enough to provide for the family, my mother had to go to work. She got a job at the school cafeteria, and the little bit she brought in helped make ends meet."

The chamber's leadership team for 2019 was announced during the annual meeting before Stephens and Langone addressed the membership.

Kevin Crass with the law firm Friday Eldridge & Clark will serve as the chamber's 2019 chairman.

Other officers are President and Chief Executive Officer Jay Chesshir, Chairman-elect Ronnie Dedman of AT&T, Treasurer John Burgess of Mainstream Technologies, immediate past Chairman Cathy Tuggle of Apartment Hunters and William Clark of Clark Contractors as ex-officio president of Fifty for the Future.

Members of the executive committee, all serving as vice chairmen, include Laura Landreaux of Entergy Arkansas, Jim Cargill of Arvest Bank, Ruth Whitney of InVeritas, Nat Lea of WEHCO Media Inc., Troy Wells of Baptist Health, Patrick Schueck of Lexicon Inc., Lynn Wright of Regions Bank, Anthony Brooks of Platinum Drywall, Curtis Barnett of Arkansas Blue and Cross Blue Shield, Marcy Doderer of Arkansas Children's Hospital and Rajesh Chokhani of Welspun Tubular.

Governments in central Arkansas help fund the Little Rock Regional Chamber's economic development efforts, including $300,000 this year from the city of Little Rock, a chamber spokesman said. About $1.1 million a year in funding is designated for economic development.

Business on 11/08/2018

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