My business experience confirmed my belief in empowering people. For example, at Bain Capital we bought Accuride, a company that made truck rims and wheels, because we saw untapped potential there. We instituted performance bonuses for the management team, which had a dramatic impact. The managers made the plants more productive, and the company started growing, adding 300 jobs while Bain was involved. My faith in people, not government, is at the foundation of my plan to strengthen America's middle class.
So we started a new business called Bain Capital. The only problem was, while WE believed in ourselves, nobody else did. We were young and had never done this before and we almost didn't get off the ground. In those days, sometimes I wondered if I had made a really big mistake. I had thought about asking my church's pension fund to invest, but I didn't. I figured it was bad enough that I might lose my investors' money, but I didn't want to go to hell too. Shows what I know. Another of my partners got the Episcopal Church pension fund to invest. Today there are a lot of happy retired priests who should thank him. That business we started with 10 people has now grown into a great American success story. Some of the companies we helped start are names you know. An office supply company called Staples – where I'm pleased to see the Obama campaign has been shopping; The Sports Authority, which became a favorite of my sons. We started an early childhood learning center called Bright Horizons that First Lady Michelle Obama rightly praised. At a time when nobody thought we'd ever see a new steel mill built in America, we took a chance and built one in a corn field in Indiana. Today Steel Dynamics is one of the largest steel producers in the United States.
First, Bain Capital is a great firm. I have co-invested with them and some of my closest friends are managing directors there. You will not find a smarter, higher-integrity, harder-working group of professionals. They have also been incredibly generous with their success and become philanthropic leaders, both in the Boston community and beyond. If you are going to pick on a private equity firm for bad behavior and hubris (of which there is plenty), they are the last ones to select.