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Movers & Shakers 2008: Where are the next movers and shakers?

The golden era of the business magnate as a steward of the
local community may be passing.

The golden era of the business magnate as a steward of the
local community may be passing.

The stewards led bulwark businesses that employed thousands
of people. They made donations that reached millions of dollars. In many cases,
they also had a more intangible power. They were go-to people, the folks you
wanted on your side if you had a big idea about economic development or
community service.

“You get the people that make it rock,” said Peggy Steinman,
a director of Lancaster Newspapers Inc., who is one of their number.

There is reason to believe that the power to make it rock is
waning. Key movers and shakers from previous decades are moving on, and
transitions at their businesses raise questions about who will follow. In
conversations with the Business Journal, some of the biggest local names in
business and community service largely agreed changes are afoot, but they
differed on the long-term impact. These veterans have records of advancing
major charitable, cultural and economic projects, from the new visitors center
at Gettysburg to the baseball stadium in York to the Lancaster
convention center.

Shifts in the economy make it less likely that a handful of
magnates will serve as the clear go-to people, some of the veterans said. Alex
Grass, the founder of Rite Aid Corp., cited the decline of local retailers
beset by big-box competition.

“I guess because they did their businesses within their
community, they were more inclined to support the community. The national
chains don’t have the same attitude,” he said.

York County construction executive Robert A. Kinsley said
fewer local headquarters can mean fewer local dollars.

“As we have less and less companies locally owned, the
national companies spread their money all over their marketplace, or they
spread it in the towns that they’re from,” said Kinsley, who owns York
County-based Kinsley Construction Inc. Still, Kinsley said major firms would
continue to sprout in the midstate.

“I think our region will see that kind of success,” he said.

Former Hershey Co. Chief Executive Officer Richard Zimmerman
also pointed to shifting headquarters, citing the acquisition in 1999 of AMP
Inc. by Tyco Corp.

There also is an important difference between the people who
founded bulwark companies such as Rite Aid and those who now run them, Grass
said:  The successors’ pockets might not
be quite as deep.

“Managing the business does not necessarily mean that they
have the (financial) wherewithal that the founders would have had,” he said.

All this means a broader base of people have to make up the
difference in capital campaigns, some said.

“Hopefully you’ll get more gifts, a large amount of gifts
from people who don’t have quite the same wherewithal but do have interest in
the welfare and health of the community,” said Grass. “I hope that it happens.
I think that it is happening to a limited extent.”

Veterans interviewed for this article did not say other
people now leading major companies are not stepping up to fill their shoes, although
some hinted that changes in business can lead to changes in attitudes.

“There are still business leaders who step up to the plate
and assist the community in moving things ahead,” Zimmerman said. But, he
added, “The nature of business has changed, too.”

Managers of major companies now have more than one location
to worry about, he said. When he joined Hershey, the firm had one plant.

“It was Hershey, PA. And a move to Mexico I don’t like, but
I understand the reasons,” Zimmerman said, referring to the firm’s recent
decision to move some production south of the border.

Not all the movers and shakers think the golden age is
irrevocably gone. Tom Wolf described this period as interregnum. Wolf was a
leader of The Wolf Organization Inc., a York building-supply company. A
private-equity firm bought into The Wolf Organization in 2006, and Wolf in 2007
became secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue.

The top leaders in a community fade and are replaced as new
businesses grow big and strong enough to produce successors, he said.

“This is a natural sequence for all communities as I
understand it. In fact, it probably happens with a lot more regularity than we
suspect,” Wolf said.

Lancaster County still has plenty of leaders, and new ones
are sure to come along, said Steinman, the Lancaster Newspapers director.

“People haven’t changed as much. I mean, they’re still very
involved. No matter what the age or what the business is,” she said.

Both Steinman and Wolf noted that many of today’s big names
were relatively unknown just a few decades ago.

As the education and medicine industries grow in importance,
leaders of colleges and hospitals will find themselves wielding more and more
influence, Wolf said. Steinman cited Franklin & Marshall College and Lancaster
General Hospital
as two players that already are big forces in Lancaster
County.

Being a mover and shaker starts with money, the veterans
said.

“When you have the ability to give, that’s a large part of
the clout,” Grass said.

But the clout also takes other forms. Movers and shakers can
help set the public agenda by talking to political leaders. That was one of the
goals of a Harrisburg-area group Zimmerman sat on that called itself the
Committee of 15, he said. The group met occasionally from the mid-1980s until
about 1990 and included senior executives of companies such as insurer Capital
BlueCross, industrial-services provider Harsco Corp. and AMP Inc., which was
later acquired by Tyco International, Zimmerman said.

Another important form of influence is simply the power of
endorsement. In York County, an idea that is pitched successfully to former
Susquehanna Pfaltzgraff Co. Chairman Louis Appell Jr. is likely to get legs,
people there have said. Appell, who did not respond to a request for comment,
is widely viewed as a convener who can pull people together. This model of
leadership also implies that not having a mover and shaker’s endorsement can
make it tougher to move a project ahead.

“I think that’s pretty typical of most cities, communities,”
Grass said of the importance of such backing.

The importance of a mover and shaker’s network raises a
broader point made by several of the veterans: They don’t do it alone. Wolf
said that even when the magnates were at the pinnacles of their influence, there
was a broad segment of businesspeople behind them giving time and money.

Asked whether a decline in the power of business magnates
would also make decision-making processes more democratic, Zimmerman said: “I
think we were typical of every community, whether you’re New York City or
whether you’re Cleveland, Ohio, or … Harrisburg. There are people who lead the
way.

“Whether or not that’s untoward power or undemocratic, I’ll
let other people judge, but what I’m suggesting is, we didn’t do it by
ourselves. We enlisted the help of other people…and often got people in our
companies to bear a hand in something,” Zimmerman said.

In fact, the people leading major local companies represent
hundreds of employees and have their best interests in mind, Kinsley said.

“What we really are is, we’re spokespersons for all our
associates,” he said. “We’re unelected political officials, I guess you could
say.”

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