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A chat with Eric Henry, small NC business owner, at the DNC

CHARLOTTE – Eric Henry arrived at the Democratic National Convention hoping to connect with some fellow business owners and organizations, and maybe help make some noise while they’re here.

“It takes large groups of loud voices to make sure we’re being heard,” Henry said.

At a convention where individuals seem to be paying close attention to the transparency of government and big businesses – from sustainable business practices to victims of foreclosure – Eric Henry’s plan to make a little noise about better policies for businesses, large and small alike, seems fitting. Henry owns TS Designs, a sustainable t-shirt company in Burlington, NC, that places equal emphasis on “people, planet and profit” and prides itself on transparency. The company’s website offers specifics on the source of their products and how they’re being produced, “from dirt to shirt.”

“Transparency does open you up to weaknesses… but it’s about gaining trust and showing your customers where your product and services come from,” Henry said. “So many businesses, there’s so much money and no transparency.”

Henry likened the issue to fast food restaurants who refuse to divulge the ingredients of their “special sauce.” No mystery meats or unmentionable condiments for TS Designs. “We’ll tell you everything,” Henry said.

Henry’s company makes North Carolina products made of North Carolina materials – right here in North Carolina.

Henry said it makes a huge difference when someone asks about where the products are made and he’s able to respond, “Right here in North Carolina.” He’s in a unique position to be able to talk about keeping businesses local and sustainable.

It was also part of his motivation for coming to Charlotte in the first place: becoming part of the conversation in a way that could help promote change in the way businesses are run in the U.S.

“If we’re not accountable, all the rules and regulations in our state and in the Capitol will never address acceptable behavior,” Henry said.

Henry added that he felt he had to get involved as a small business owner, both by traveling to Charlotte as well as writing op-eds and giving presentations around the state. One of those op-eds was printed in the News & Observer last month, addressing the prospect of the Bush tax cuts being extended to 2.7 million high-income earners. Public investment was the key to keeping TS Designs healthy, Henry writes, as the taxes he pays help the government invest in services that the company depends on to succeed.

“Taking money from the budgets of families struggling to make ends meet and giving it to the most prosperous families won’t help my business or our economy,” Henry writes. “Instead it will continue us down the path of subsidizing the already well-off instead of making the investments in our economy and our people that truly strengthen our nation and our homegrown jobs.”

In Henry’s view, everyday North Carolinians can help do their part by supporting local businesses that make the most of public investments.

“Vote with your dollars,” Henry said. “Get people to understand what that means. Being aware will help make better decisions.”

Read Henry’s entire op-ed here.

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