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News ::
Changing the rules of capitalism
05 Mar 2002
Seeking to change the rules of capitalism to give communities and workers equity in companies and a share of their profits
EASTHAMPTON - Michael Garjian of 7 Fairfield Ave. wants to change the rules of capitalism to give communities and workers equity in companies and a share of their profits.

"Capitalism is a beautiful system" for motivating and rewarding individuals and individual investors, he says, but it needs to be fixed so that workers and the whole community also benefit from the accumulation of wealth.

An inventor and former manufacturer, Garjian, 55, has since 1999 worked as small business counselor at the Valley Community Development Corp. in Northampton.

His new idea is a "socially conscious economic model for Millennium 2000" which he has had trademarked as "E2M."

E2M provides a mechanism for companies to donate from 5 to 20 percent of their stock or shares ( or from 1 to 4 percent of net sales if they don't have stock or shares) to an E2M community fund, managed by an independent community council.

Participating companies would also provide the same percentage range of stock options or profit-sharing to their employees.

E2M, he says, is a model that "brings the community into the economic process as a major force," and gives it a role greater "than just as a source of workers and consumers,"

Businesses that participate would gain access to low interest loans from a community fund, as well as to technical advice and other benefits of being part of an E2M network.

The community fund, in addition to helping to finance community projects to meet social needs, would be a source of venture capital to local start-ups, said Garjian.

Garjian published what he then called his E2M "manifesto" -and which he now refers to as his "manuscript" - two years ago, just as the millennium was dawning. He has been circulating it widely for comment and criticism, and refining it, ever since.

In early December, about 16 area leaders in finance, education, business, philanthropy politics and social programs gathered at the home of Hampshire College Gregory Prince to hear him give his pitch. Garjian invited their questions and their critiques.

There was plenty of both enthusiasm and skepticism expressed there, as evident in a transcript of the meeting.

Several local experts in investment finance questioned whether companies that would subscribe to the model would be able to compete for investor dollars with conventional companies more strictly focused on maximizing profits and earnings per share.

Both Prince and former UMass chancellor David Scott were present and expressed interest in the model.

Garjian is trying hard to lobby the university, his alma mater, and also Hampshire College to sign on to his proposal.

Among the most frequently asked questions that Garjian has been asked about his model have to do with how "the community" he refers to so often in his documents would be defined geographically, how it would be fairly represented by a community council, and how a council, once selected, would be held accountable to all.

In an attempt to answer some of those questions, Garjian, through his non-profit company E2M.org, is launching a prototype of a regional community council and a community fund.

The Community Trust Inc. (CTI), a 7-year-old non-profit community loan fund supported by Smith College and several banks, has agreed to serve as the legal depository of gifts of stock and charitable contributions to E2M.org.

CTI board president Stephan Rogers of Leverett, the owner of a management consulting company, said he's enthusiastic.

"I dub it responsible capitalism," said Rogers who was Garjian's predecessor at Valley CDC also serves as a board member of E2M.org.

See also:
http://www.gazettenet.com/03042002/business/12071.htm
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