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I witnessed the benefits of free enterprise, so I decided to build a movement to defend it

OpinionI witnessed the benefits of free enterprise, so I decided to build a movement to defend it

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Setting aside some of the louder voices in our politics, there’s no better place in the world to live than right here in our country. The opportunity to succeed is limitless, largely owed to the founders who built up a powerful nation on important economic principles – freedom and free enterprise.  

But the current attacks on our foundational principles by activists and policymakers in Washington, D.C., state capitals across America, and at the municipal level have left me concerned. That’s why I decided to launch Citizens for Free Enterprise, a national political and issue advocacy organization dedicated to activating Americans from all walks of life to participate in elections that have national, state, and local consequences. 

My commitment to free enterprise grew throughout my life. The son of a cop and a waitress, my parents taught me the value of hard work. Born and raised in Toledo, Ohio, I grew up with the Midwestern work ethic all around me. That meant getting a job as soon as I could – as a busboy at Bob Evans.  

FLORIDA LANDMARK, COLUMBIA RESTAURANT, FLAVORED BY ‘PASSIONATE, PATRIOTIC’ IMMIGRANT EXPERIENCE

After I graduated from college, I jumped into the private sector, working for Procter & Gamble for several years before looking for the next opportunity in my career. In 1997, I began my entrepreneurial journey building Cold Stone Creamery and led its growth and development for the next decade.  

Photo of inside a D.C. suburb's grocery store

Grocery store shoppers in a Washington, D.C. suburb. Businesses large and small benefit from the free enterprise system, as do their customers. (Fox News Digital)

By the time I left, we had grown into 1,400 stores across all 50 states and 10 countries. And we were only able to do that with a team – franchise owners, our dedicated employees, teenagers who scooped ice cream and enthusiastically sang in our stores. 

That experience proved invaluable to what came next in my career. 

I turned to elected office after decades in business because I felt too often the government got in the way of or ignored the needs of our job creators. As Arizona’s treasurer and then as governor, I felt like we could bring some real-life, business-like principles to state government. And we did.  

We left office with fewer state employees than when we came in, despite our population exploding with 400,000 additional private sector jobs and are now providing services in a more efficient, customer-oriented, people-focused way. We passed the lowest flat tax in America and turned a billion-dollar deficit into a multi-billion-dollar surplus.  

Just like in the private sector – it wasn’t about one person or a top-down approach. We succeeded because of a great team and employees dedicated to the mission. 

The free enterprise system matters to me – I believe it’s what lifts people out of poverty, provides new generations a shot at the American Dream and paves the way for opportunity for all. It shaped who I am as a person and how I governed. The next chapter of my career will turn that same energy into action through Citizens for Free Enterprise.  

Building upon lessons across my career in business and public service, Citizens for Free Enterprise plans to be an aggressive answer to the far-left activists and policymakers intent on tearing down free-market capitalism. Our goal is to support policies and people that allow for free enterprise to flourish, and to engage every day in the fights that matter.  

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Our hope is to attract new people and young Americans around this important cause. We are going into communities that have been ignored, but where the American Dream is alive and well.  

Oil rig iStock image

The American energy industry is an essential part of the free enterprise system. (iStock)

If you go to a college campus and ask students which economic system they feel more favorable about – capitalism or socialism – it’s pretty much a 50/50 proposition. That leaves some work to be done and we’re excited to embrace the challenge.  

The free enterprise system unleashed the greatest engine for growth and prosperity the world has ever seen. It’s important the next generation understands it despite the constant negativity flooding their screens daily. 

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For me, the American Dream and free enterprise are worth fighting for. I believed that when I was a young professional fresh out of college, as a successful business leader looking for a new way to make a difference in government, and still do today as a former governor ready to continue his mission.  

I know others believe it too. And we look forward to communicating with them more as our organization, less than a year old, continues to grow.  

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