PEOPLE

GD's CEO challenges contractors to do more for their community

'Have we done enough?'

Echoing the ancient call to arms most recently reiterated by Bill Gates in 2007, General Dynamics chairman and CEO Phebe Novakovic urged the contracting industry to give back to the Northern Virginia community, reminding us that “to those whom much is given, much is expected.”

“Many of us have struggled with sequestration and the government shutdown, but I think it’s fair to say that, on whole, we have prospered. We have prospered because all of us have worked hard to deliver value to our customers, to our partners, and our people,” Novakovic said at the Northern Virginia Technology Council TITANS event on Tuesday morning.

The hard work and innovation that this industry has created has resulted in great success in this community, but the question of whether we have done enough still remains, Novakovic said.

Listing off a number of troubling facts, Novakovic talked about a different side of Northern Virginia: 14 percent of children living in the area receive free or reduced-price school lunches, and 12 percent of children living inside of the beltway are in economic distress.

In parts of Reston, Va., alone, the percentage of people living below the poverty line for a family of four has grown to 40 percent, Novakovic said. This statistic factors into the 85,000 children in the area that are living below the poverty line, she added.

“Creating value for our shareholders, our customers, our partners and our employees is our reason for being, but I also believe there’s a credible and persuasive argument that because our success is in part due to our community in Northern Virginia, we have a responsibility to be good stewards of that community,” Novakovic said.

As an example, General Dynamics has been giving back to the Fairfax county police force that provides security for a majority of the 6,000 General Dynamics employees living in the Northern Virginia area, Novakovic said. “As a result, and to help answer the call of what more can we do, we are expanding our support to our first responders through the provision of needed training supplies, resources and human talent.”

And the police force needs additional help as it tackles one of the more pressing issues of this area: Northern Virginia has become come one of the nation’s leaders in human trafficking, particularly child sex trafficking, Novakovic said. It is here where other members of the community might be able to help in some way.

Keeping the community strong and safe has implications for the future of Northern Virginia, too; “If we don’t keep this area a place where our talented and in demand employees want to raise their families, we will in fact lose those employees,” Novakovic said.

Every government contractor in this area has a corporate duty to be aware of local issues and provide resources to help solve problems. “I believe that each business leader needs to choose an issue that is right for them,” she said.

So, despite the technological progress that has come to characterize the Northern Virginia area for decades, she said, “I believe that each of us must ask ourselves either as individuals or as companies, ‘Have we done enough?’”

About the Author

Mark Hoover is a senior staff writer with Washington Technology. You can contact him at mhoover@washingtontechnology.com, or connect with him on Twitter at @mhooverWT.

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