Jeff Shoemaker, co-founder of Rocket Jones Interactive, on the intrinsic value of owning a local business.
It’s Faith and Work Week at All Things New. We’ll be exploring how our work connects to God’s work through the inaugural season of the All Things New Podcast. Here on the blog, we’ll be posting excerpts from a handful of the 11 episodes. Today’s segment is from our conversation with Jeff Shoemaker, co-founder and principal software engineer of Rocket Jones Interactive in Old Town Fort Collins.
Trevor Sides: One of the effects of our dependence on internet-powered technologies to deliver us everything from toilet paper to food is that it disrupts our sense of place. It blurs the reality that I live on a certain street, in a certain neighborhood, in a certain city, in a certain state. So, as a small business owner with office space in Old Town, that’s a really important thing if we’re going to talk about faith and work and sense of place. It’s meaningful that Rocket Jones actually takes up residence somewhere. You have a sense of place about yourself even though you’re working on the web.. We work in Fort Collins, and there’s some connection with Jeremiah 29 and seeking the good of our city.
Jeff Shoemaker: I think that’s one of the great things that, as a business and as Christians in business, gets overlooked sometimes. When we ask how Christians running a business can bring good to the world, there’s a lot of ways to do that. At one level you can go, “Well, we have these employees and we can share the gospel with them.” And surely you can do that. I think another real aspect of it is in that Jeremiah prophecy, when he looks at the children of Israel and he says, “You guys are going into the Babylonian captivity but don’t just hold your breath while you’re waiting there. Build houses, plant gardens, start growing food, because you’re going to be there for a while. Have kids, raise them and be invested in that community.”
Owning and managing a business is, in my experience, one of the greatest ways to actually invest in this community. We have had the privilege of employing numerous people over the years we’ve been in business. We’re employing people and we’re providing, as much as we can, a quality standard of living for them. It keeps people in the city, so rather than constantly creating sprawl, they are engaged and invested in this place. We own the building that we have in Old Town, so we pay taxes, and Old Town taxes are a special kind of taxes. Did I tell you what all those flowers and brick pavers—
Trevor: They don’t pay for themselves?
Jeff: No, they don’t. Someone comes out three times a year and plants all new seasonally appropriate plants, and our property taxes pay for that stuff. But it’s good.
Trevor: Yeah, there’s an intrinsic good in and of itself to owning and running a business.
Jeff: We’re giving back to the community just like any business does—even if at some level it is legally required, like through our taxes and these other things. But it is providing a good and it’s not something to have your nose thumbed at. Sometimes, Christians can be a little bit like, “Hands off my money; I made this money.” But there’s also a good in realizing that other people are being blessed by the taxes we pay. Other people are being blessed when we have to hire new employees to help us accomplish the tasks that are in front of us—and that we can pay them well. And I think one of the things that makes Christian businesses, hopefully, distinct is that they’re not all just about profits. They’re about seeking the welfare of their employees; they’re about seeking the welfare of their city. So, sometimes they’ll even take stances that can could potentially hurt their bottom line a little bit in order to see their employees prosper, to see their community and their neighbors prosper and do well. That’s one of the blessings businesses can bring.