Asked to write a bio of myself

John Fonner joined the Columbus General Office of New York Life in July, 2013 after a long career in commercial real estate and economic development throughout Ohio and Kentucky. John is successfully leveraging his extensive professional and personal network to bring New York Life’s portfolio of employee insurance benefits and retirement products into school districts, county and municipal governments, non-profits and small businesses. 

Fonner grew up in West Virginia and graduated from the Ohio State University. He served as an officer in the US Army before beginning his civilian career in Cincinnati, Ohio where he worked for Duke Realty, BHDP Architecture and the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce.  He moved to Columbus in 2009 to work for the State of Ohio at the PUCO and the Department of Transportation before joining New York Life.  John says, “I’ve been a networker and a problem solver my entire career. The insurance industry is a perfect fit for me and New York Life is a great company to work for. I’m glad we found each other.”

John is active in the community as a Vestry member of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church and enjoys baking bread for communion and for his own table. He hosts a monthly ukulele meet-up and plays traditional country and old-time music on ukulele and tenor guitar with friends and at jams throughout Columbus. He collects, repairs and resells vintage ukuleles and other fine things through his small company, Bud Whitley’s Garage. John frequently wears bow ties because they make people smile; reportedly, John will go to great lengths to make his friends and clients smile.

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John Fonner

I am preparing for Sunday’s bible study session; the lesson for this week contains the phrase, “abide in my love.”

“Abide” is one of those words we think we know. One of those comfortable, pretty, old-fashioned, church words that we’re sure we understand when we hear it. We never question it. We let it slide in our own self-confidence. We’ve heard it before. We’re sure we understand it because we understand the context in which it’s used. No need to look it up.

Well, I looked it up. Here’s what Webster’s has to say:

Abide v.  1. To wait patiently for.  2. To persevere under.  3. To accept or submit to.  4. To put up with.

I’ll save the theology for Sunday. Right now I wonder if I have what it takes to use the word “abide” in describing the earthly relationships in which I might venture to use the…

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Where were we?

Seems I find myself in the same old place in a different town.

Ideas for Wall Street Regualtion Reform

Headlines of tainted food, product recalls and dangerous pharmaceuticals seem common place but given the number of new products that consumers are exposed to every year the United States really has a pretty solid reputation for product safety and consumer protection.

As our government considers new regulations for the banking and investment industries maybe we should look to our existing tangible product safety rules and regulations for workable models.  For example, before new exotic financial products can be sold on the open market, it seems reasonable that bankers and investment houses should have to conduct exhaustive “clinical trials” with their new products and schemes in hypothetical market models, with the results subject to regulatory oversight, before these products could be sold to investors. Financial product liability laws should be written to ensure that  the financial inventors & purveyors of these instruments should also be subject to product liabilty laws if their products should prove faulty (or fraudulent) as with the bundling of mortgage backed securities at the center of this economic mess. It seems reasonable that faulty mortgages should be subject to recall & repair at a bank’s expense when systemic errors are found without having to resort to foreclosures and bankrupcies. All tangible product manufacturers have to stand behind the quality of their products, why not require the same accountability of banks and investment firms?

The US economy has been going through the transition to a “knowledge based economy” for so long the term has become cliche.  Financial services became larger than manufacturing as a portion of the US Gross Domestic Product in the 1980’s. As we better understand the fault lines at the origin of the current recession, we should consider whether our consumer protection laws and product safety regimes for financial instruments could use some of the same rigor and enforcement that have ensured quality and safety in our tangible product industries for the past several decades.

Perhaps some of the billions of dollars of lost value from investment and retirement accounts and hundreds of thousands of lost jobs could have been saved if we, as a nation, had been concerned about the quality, not just the quantity, of what our financial services industry produced. We are learning, once again, that the effects of greed can be just as dangerous and devastating as the effects of faulty design and manufacturing of tangible goods.

A Pretty Good Pot of Chili

I just started throwing stuff together from the back of the fridge and cupboards and ended up with a pretty good pot of chili tonight.  As best as I can remember, here’s what went in:

1 lb ground round
4 left-over Bob Evans sausage links, diced
1 pkg precooked Perdue Carved Chicken Breast, Southwestern Style, diced
1 16oz jar Ortega Thick & Chunky Salsa, medium heat
1 green pepper, diced
1/2 onion, diced
3 Tbl worchestershire sauce
3 15oz cans of dark red kidney beans including the liquid
1 15oz can of diced tomatoes
1 heaping tablespoon Hershey’s Cocoa
2 Tbl sugar
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp black pepper
2 cups water

Put the beans and  tomatoes (including liquid) and the water in a stock pot on medium high heat.

Dice the sausage and chicken. Brown the ground meat in a skillet. When cooked, add all the meat to the stockpot along with the salsa, cocoa, sugar and spices.

Sautee the green pepper and onion in the worchestershire sauce (in the same skillet used for the ground meat) until tender. Add to the stockpot when complete. Simmer on medium low heat for 30-45 minutes.

Served with grated cheddar cheese on top, cold apple slices on the side and a beer. Pretty good stuff. Eat what you can, freeze the rest for later.

Infrastructure Enables Wealth

In 1824, the Ohio Legislature approved the financing for the construction of the Miami Erie Canal which connected the Lake Erie port of Toledo to the Ohio River in Cincinnati.  Once built, the canal boats carried timber south to the paper mills in Middletown and Hamilton in Butler County and swine to the growing number of sausage factories in Cincinnati.  The latter earned Cincinnati the nickname “Porkopolis” as it became a meat processing center that was at the time larger than the beef processing centers of Chicago and Kansas City. Great fortunes were amassed in southwest Ohio in the paper and meat packing industries, but the biggest explosion of wealth was yet to come.

In the 1860’s, a couple of entrepreneurs named Procter and Gamble, a candle maker and soap maker, joined in business at the south end of the canal, now know as the Mill Creek, to make productive use of the fats and other waste products from the sausage plants. Now in the 21st century, Cincinnati is well known as a global center of consumer products many of which are based in the organic chemistry of fats that P&G pioneered. Other industry giants based on the same organic chemistry that drove P&G are here too. Andrew Jergens (now Kao Corporation), Emery and Henkle are just a few.

Without the public investment in the canal infrastructure, these industries would have found other places to grow and our favorite cultural institutions like the Cincinnati Zoo and Music Hall may not have found the funding they needed to grow and thrive. The railroads had similar impact on places like Chicago and San Francisco and more recently, the fiber optics cables lying on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean have enabled the growth of data-oriented businesses in India.

President-elect Obama is right to be discussing infrastructure investments as a key component of his proposed stimulus package.  Economic growth cannot occur with the prerequisite investment in infrastructure. It’s often not glamorous or even visible (think of the sewers under your street or the electricity powering my computer as I write this) but is necessary investment needed to create a wealthy society.