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Opinion: Russian sanctions, local impacts

Jim Hoffman
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Free Press Weekly Opinion Columnist

The demonization of government continues unabated, and it’s growing at a rapid and perhaps dangerous pace.

Individuals, groups and companies are often quick to fire an angry salvo at government and frequently President Obama, deserved or not. It is sometimes flabbergasting to see how far some will go to personalize their governmental disdain and state unequivocally their belief the commander-in-chief has personally decided an issue that has a personal impact.

At this past weekend’s Fruita Fat Tire Festival, I found myself telling attendees about a local company that ships its product nationally, but was not well known in Fruita. That sentiment was also true for other small companies exhibiting at the festival, and for other companies both small and large that are based here.



The article originally envisioned for this space was one celebrating local companies, large and small, about whom we may know little. It was to be a positive piece praising local entrepreneurs and their efforts to build companies here in Mesa County that have impact well beyond our borders. Among the larger local companies that immediately came to mind for mention was Reynolds Polymer and Leitner-Poma.

Then an article in Saturdays Daily Sentinel changed all that. It was a story about politician Cory Gardner’s visit to our fair city and an exchange he had with Matt Houlihan, executive vice-president at Reynolds Polymer. Mr. Houlihan, whose company just reached a $9 million dollar deal with a Russian company, was concerned the business could be lost should the federal government place sanctions on Russia due to its foray into Ukraine. That is a legitimate concern. Had Hooligan’s comments stopped there it would have been a business conversation.



But Mr. Houlihan felt it necessary to politicize his business concerns and took the opportunity to do so. He was concerned that Obama may “put sanctions on” and that his company may “have to pay for Obama’s lack of good policies.”

Houlihan does not seem to understand that the sanctions being proposed are not President Obama’s personal choices or policies, but rather sanctions being proposed by a wide swath of politicians of varied political inclination. These sanctions are being demanded not just by politicians, but indeed by the world community. There are many elected officials insisting on sanctions with whom Houlihan has no political difference, but he has found it convenient to point the finger at Obama and ignore all others standing with the president and for action. He has found it convenient to ignore the fact that there are conservatives pushing for even more stringent sanctions.

Neither you, nor I — and likely President Obama (were he aware of this situation) — would want Reynolds Polymer to suffer financially due to the situation in Ukraine. The unfortunate reality is that sanctions, when applied, sometimes do have the unintended consequence of negatively impacting others. We hope that Reynolds Polymer finds a channel in which to gain redress for this should the sanctions they fear be put into place. We also would hope they can do so without unrealistic bombast and rhetoric. It would be interesting, however, if the sanctions are not put into place or if they find exclusion to the sanctions that Mr. Houlihan would find the time to thank President Obama as quickly as he would blame him.

Mr. Gardner, in the same story, is quoted as saying the sanctions may be necessary. Sanctions have impact beyond the confines of Washington, D.C. Perhaps the current situation may be resolved without economic measures that adversely impact our local businesses. If sanctions are indeed put into place, we would encourage our elected officials in Washington, Gardner among them, to work with Reynolds Polymer and other businesses finding themselves in similar circumstances.

GJ Free Press columnist Jim Hoffman is a local Realtor and investor who, when not working, loves skiing, camping and fishing (in season). He may be reached at freepressjim@gmail.com.


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