Where Good Begins: Jason Howey

As President of New Britain manufacturer Okay Industries, Jason Howey knows about leadership and team-building – concepts important not only in the manufacturing world but in building better communities. A member of a variety of local non-profit boards, donor to the Community Foundation’s Civic Leadership Fund and a guiding force, along with the Foundation, in the success of the New Britain Academy for Health Professions, Howey recognizes that healthy, vibrant communities not only make for good business, but better lives. CFGNB recently sat with Jason to discuss the business of community leadership and why, for him, the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain is Where Good Begins.

Q) Why is it so important to you and Okay Industries to give back to the Greater New Britain community?

A) My father, Greg Howey, along with other partners bought this company in 1990. Long before that, Okay had a long history of supporting the community, and that matched up neatly with our family’s own personal philosophy about giving back. We have a good workforce here, we employ many people from New Britain and other local communities, and my parents always said that you get what you give. So it is important to give back to the community that helps you grow and run your business.

Q) Talk about the success of the New Britain Academy for Health Professions and how you got involved.

A) Jim Williamson (CFGNB President) and I were co-chairs of an Employability Task Force here in the city charged with bringing the business community and city schools together to better prepare our children for the workforce. With guidance and support from the Hospital of Central Connecticut, Hospital for Special Care, the Mayor, chamber, superintendent of schools and others, the Academy was born and under the dynamic leadership of Maria Pietrantuono it has been unbelievably successful. Today I believe there are more than 400 kids enrolled in the program at the high school.

I’m really big on the idea of future workforce development. It’s all about putting the pieces in place to give kids the tools they need to succeed, to give them opportunity. I think the Academy demonstrates that.

Q) Why is the Community Foundation so important to the communities it serves?

A) New Britain is a community where everyone wants to do the right thing, and the Community Foundation embodies the kind of leadership mentality that fosters positive action and positive change. It’s about bringing the right people together to rally around a cause, and I think the Foundation and this community have demonstrated the capability to do that.

Take the First Years First initiative for example. Early on I was on a planning committee addressing early childhood development needs, about coming up with a plan that gives kids hope and a roadmap to get better. I’m not really a part of it now, but from these first planning meetings early on, the Foundation has developed a high-impact initiative that is really changing kids’ lives.

Q) Why should others follow your lead and the lead of Okay Industries and support the Community Foundation and its Civic Leadership Fund?

A) None of the great work that the Foundation does would be possible unless the community – and I mean both individuals and businesses – supports its work. All the jumpstarting, all the bridge-building, all the leadership and community engagement to inspire action that the Foundation does, happens because the Foundation is there to make it happen.

It’s all about action, about stopping the talk and doing something positive to effect change, and I think that is what the Foundation is very good at.