Sat | Sep 23, 2017

Editorial | Deserving recognition for Butch Hendrickson

Published:Thursday | October 6, 2016 | 10:00 AM

Because it's a private company, we are not privy to the accounts of Continental Baking Company, which produces the National brand of breads and other baked products. But the way that Gary 'Butch' Hendrickson gives away money in 'good cause' donations, we can only assume that Continental is a healthy and profitable business.

Indeed, for the way that he modernised and expanded this segment of the family business, since it was ceded to him two decades ago, Mr Hendrickson would well deserve induction into the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica's Hall of Fame, which happens formally at a banquet on October 26. Indeed, Continental has the lion's share of Jamaica's market for breads and buns and other domestically manufactured baked products.

But then there is Mr Hendrickson's philanthropy, like the J$150-million, state-of-the art early-childhood school he and another celebrated businessman, Cari-Med's Glen Christian, financed in the inner-city community of Union Gardens in southwestern St Andrew.

"Hands down, the Union Gardens project is the most exciting one I have done," Mr Hendrickson told this newspaper earlier this year. "I think it will change the way children will go to school."

Well - if he says so. Of what there is no doubt is Gary Hendrickson's passion for education, especially at the early-childhood level, and how deeply he pushes his hand in his pocket - via his National Baking Company Foundation - in support of the sector.

He is, for example, a major funder of Crayons Count. This project provides learning material to basic schools, those generally under-resourced, community-based early childhood education institutions where the bulk of the Jamaican children get their start. Further, Crayons Count logos are painted on many of National's delivery vans, giving project visibility and promotion to the cause.

"Frankly, if I could rid Jamaica of one social ill, it would be illiteracy," said Hendrickson in that January Gleaner interview. "In fact, if I were to go into full-time voluntary service, early-childhood development would be it, because it is the most effective. I don't believe in a situation where you have to fix a problem down the road; I would rather avoid that by having a good base to begin with. Helping children to get a really good start means a world of difference to me."

Yet, while early-childhood education is at the centre of Mr Hendrickson's charitable giving, it's not his only focus. Organsiations such as Mustard Seed Communities, Missionaries of the Poor, St Patrick's Foundation, Talk Up Yout!, and Bustamante Hospital for Children know, too, of and benefit from his generosity.

What, though, may be unique about Butch Hendrickson is that he has been able to fashion corporate philanthropy into something of a business model that benefits other firms, without obvious returns immediately to his company.

The norm in the business world is for little firms to fear big ones - the big company running roughshod over the little guy. However, for several years, Mr Hendrickson and his company have operated a project called The Bold Ones, in which start-up, or small companies that could not otherwise afford to participate in the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association/Jamaica Exporters' Association biennial trade expo have their costs met by Continental Baking. Their products, too, are often promoted on the National trucks.

This is a project, indeed, Mr Hendrickson's entire business, that is worthy of a case study in business schools in the Caribbean and elsewhere. For it ought to earn in a place in any business hall of fame.