Return The Favor: Helping vets start small businesses

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – A state lawmaker wants to give veterans returning home from overseas help starting their own businesses. He’s introduced a bill that will create training programs at state-owned colleges and universities.

“I still think part of the American dream is being able to run your own business and be self-sufficient and to create for yourself,” Rep. Greg Rothman (R-Cumberland) said.

Rothman has been in office for just one year and is committed to helping veterans. This is a topic he knows a lot about; he spent 10 years in the U.S. Marine Corps and also worked in real estate. He says a large number of people starting new businesses are veterans because they make good leaders.

“I think veterans generally are the types of people that aren’t risk-averse,” he said. “They’re willing to take risks. They pay attention to details. They understand about accomplishing missions. They have that in their DNA. The backbone of this country’s economy and Pennsylvania’s economy is still small business.”

Just as on the battlefield, Rothman says he wants new entrepreneurs to have the weapons they need to succeed. His bill would help those interested in starting a new business create marketing plans, learn to negotiate, and compete for government contracts; information he says benefits more than just vets. A successful business leads to jobs, and that’s good for everyone.

“These young men and women go out and risk their lives for us and I’d like to, when they get back, give them something more than just the G.I. bill, give them some training so they can go start companies and build this country, starting in Pennsylvania,” he said.

Rothman’s bill has 35 co-sponsors and bipartisan support. He hopes the bill moves forward in the fall. He thinks it has a good chance of getting passed and signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf.
Rep. Greg Rothman "hit the ground running" in first six months

April 4, 2016

State Rep. Greg Rothman listens and responds to the concerns of everyone in the four municipalities and three school districts he represents, say community leaders.

“He’s very responsive, and he listens,” said East Pennsboro Township Commissioner George Tyson. “If you have a need or a concern and you reach out to him, he responds quickly.”

Rothman, chosen in an August 2015 special election to represent the 87th Legislative District, is seeking reelection, vying for the Republican nomination in the April 26 primary. The seat encompasses Camp Hill Borough, and East Pennsboro, Hampden, and Silver Spring townships, and Camp Hill, Cumberland Valley, and East Pennsboro school districts. Rothman works behind the scenes to benefit all constituents, said Mike Berney, an active citizen in Camp Hill Borough.

“He was ready from Day One,” with a grasp of the issues “that was very rare for someone who’s not been in the process for 20 years,” said Berney. “He clearly has continued to advance his own learning about issues. I admire that. I’m strongly supporting him for reelection.”

In East Pennsboro Township, renovation plans for the Erford Road Bridge were significantly upgraded after Rothman arranged a meeting between Tyson and Pennsylvania Department of Transportation officials. That meeting launched a collaboration, also aided by state Sen. Pat Vance, between township and PennDOT officials to add a third lane and other improvements to bridge plans.

The project, slated for possible construction in summer 2017, will ease congestion at the bridge over the Camp Hill Bypass and could help convince businesses to locate along the Erford Road corridor, Tyson said. Such infrastructure improvements relieve tax pressures on citizens and create “high-paying, sustainable jobs” in the community, Tyson said. Rothman served as “a conduit to that higher level within the state that we don’t often have, as a citizen or in a municipal position,” said Tyson. The bridge project showed Rothman’s commitment to long-term thinking that benefits constituents, he said.

“Sometimes, having an impact is keeping quiet and listening,” Tyson said. “If you listen and pay attention, you probably don’t have to dig real deep. It rises to the top, and you’ll figure it out. That’s what Greg is doing.”

Rothman also takes education seriously, showing his support of schools during the 2015-16 state budget crisis, said retired educator Barbara Geistwhite, who is active in Cumberland Valley School District.

“From the very start, he has ingratiated himself to the community,” she said. “He’s been out at community events. He’s very interested in getting to know the people and their situations. He hit the ground running to help us with things that need to be done.”

Rothman regularly attends district and community fundraisers, including events that raise scholarship funds, said Geistwhite.

“He’s very accessible,” she said. “I can honestly say that I know Greg is interested and involved in education. If I have a special issue, I can go and talk to him, and he’ll respond.”

Despite their close association, Geistwhite never knew that Rothman was a Cumberland Valley High School graduate. “That tells me something,” she said.

“He’s out there for everybody,” Geistwhite said. “While he may be CV strong, he’s also there for any other school district in his area.” Rothman, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and president and CEO of RSR, Realtors, said community involvement inspired his decision to seek office and reelection.

“The people of the 87th District are diligent, honest, and caring,” he said. “They deserve representation that reflects their values and protects them as taxpayers. When I work hard, it’s only because the people of this district work harder. Their voices and ideas need to be heard in the Capitol, and I’m proud to take their values to Harrisburg.”

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Jamie Berrier
Jamie Berrier

As a young woman in real estate, Jamie Berrier sometimes encountered problems. She had started as Greg Rothman’s assistant, and Greg had become her mentor. So when she ran into “tough situations,” as she calls them, she would ask him to handle them. He would respond, “Go and fix it.”

“I know now what he was doing,” says Berrier. “He was growing me. He was making me go to those uncomfortable situations because it stretched me, and I learned from them. I appreciate it. Not in the moment, of course, but now, I appreciate it.

”Today, 18 years later, Jamie is a partner with RSR, REALTORS®, a peer and colleague of Greg. She is one of many women now at the top of their fields whom Greg has mentored throughout his career.

‘Paying it forward’

Greg, who is Lemoyne­based RSR’s president and CEO, took the initiative because he sometimes saw smart, capable women encountering gender­based barriers. He recognized that encouraging their talents and contributions could only enhance the overall business climate.

“In some historically male­dominated businesses, there are intangible barriers to women,” Greg says. “If I can help knock some of them down, then I’m going to try. I certainly didn’t succeed without the help of others, so it’s important to pay it forward.”

Greg has never sugarcoated the challenges of business. As a mentor, he reminds his colleagues that business is hard, but the rewards in success and personal growth are satisfying.

Angela Shaw, senior mortgage advisor at Susquehanna Lending Group, Camp Hill, says that Greg is quick to credit the women he’s mentored with blazing their own trails to success, but he’s also ready to open doors that help them reach the next level.

“If you are passionate about your field and you have knowledge and are willing learn and overcome hurdles, he supports you 100 percent,” says Shaw. “Whatever doors he can open or help he can provide, he will do that whether you’re male or female.”
Jessica Meyers
‘You need people who are respected in the community to support you’

Greg was always “happy to answer the phone,” says Jessica E. Meyers, President of Harrisburg­-based construction services firm JEM Group.“

When I needed to tap into his network or wanted his insight from the real estate and building perspective, he was always willing to be available,” she says. “You know how busy people are. It’s appreciated. You need people who are respected in the community to support you.”

Greg also encouraged Jessica to become president of Harrisburg Young Professionals, an organization he co­-founded.

“That was a leadership opportunities that helped me grow professionally and personally,” she says. “He was one of those people twisting my arm. You need people to push you from time to time.”

Greg is constantly amazed at the ability of women to devote their energies and talents to family and business. Jamie Berrier, the assistant who grew to be a partner, credits Greg with pushing her to be involved in the community, as well.

“He taught me how to be a better person,” she says. “Greg was always encouraging me to volunteer within the community. He was constantly telling me to be well­-rounded. You don’t just focus on business. You also focus on giving back, because it makes what you’re doing that much more worth it.”
Alex Hartzler

The idea was simple, but not necessarily easy to implement: Why not create an organization dedicated to creating social and economic opportunities that would attract young professionals to Harrisburg, and keep them there?

Greg Rothman, along with Eric Morrison, J. Alex Hartzler, Dan Schwab, and John Norton had the idea in 1998 for what would become Harrisburg Young Professionals. They also had the combined skills to make it happen.

Today, HYP is an impact player in central Pennsylvania, convening young people to make a difference in the city and the region.

The other group members credit Greg with bringing drive and energy to the effort to make HYP a reality. Greg was a visionary, says Eric M. Morrison, an attorney with Smigel Anderson & Sacks LLP.

“He has big ideas,” says Morrison. “Nothing was impossible to achieve. He would be very optimistic that we could accomplish what we put our minds to and what we put our talents to.”

‘A natural leader’

In the 1980s and ‘90s, Harrisburg lacked the thriving downtown that young professionals find in other cities, says J. Alex Hartzler, managing partner of WCI Partners LP. HYP was created to contribute to revitalization and help halt the region’s “brain drain” of top talent. Greg was “very much a cheerleader and able to get things done,” he says.

“Being from an established family with a strong business name in the community brought credibility,” says Hartzler. “Greg brought lots of contacts form business and social network, plus his enthusiasm and vision.

”Greg was HYP’s second president, succeeding Hartzler.

“Greg’s always been a natural leader,” says Hartzler. “He’s able to speak to all different types of people.”

Bringing leadership

HYP was a “catalyst for rejuvenation of downtown Harrisburg,” says Dan Schwab, co-president of D&H. Today, from the foundation that Greg helped build, HYP remains true to its mission to make Harrisburg a great place to live, work, and play, he says.

“Greg brought leadership, and he brought his relationships, his network, and his passion,” says Schwab. “Whenever he does something, it’s 110 percent.”

During the forming of HYP, Greg demonstrated a talent for consensus building that’s needed in public office, says Morrison. In the 1980s, Greg helped form an organization that has become a mid-state stronghold, and today, he is helping build a vibrant economy not just for the East Shore or West Shore but for the entire region. He’ll bring the same refreshing outlook to the state House of Representatives as representative for the 87th District, Morrison says.

“Greg’s not a divider. He’s a uniter.”