Starting in 1999, I worked for Interpath Communications, one of the first success stories of the tech boom in the Research Triangle, or RTP. In the 90's our company provided application services to utilities companies and other businesses, and during the span of just a few years the company grew rapidly to over 700 people.
Bain Capital acquired Interpath in the year 2000, and it was clear from the outset that they intended to strip out the good parts of our company, suck the money out of it, and kill off the rest. They installed a new CEO and sent down a team of MBAs with spreadsheets from Boston to figure out how to down-size the company.
I was a part of the first wave of layoffs just a short time after the acquisition was completed. I remember it vividly: on August 11, we showed up to work to find armed security guards blocking the entrances to the computer rooms. We were locked out of our personal computers, and there were sealed envelopes in our chairs.
The letters they contained were nearly identical, except for in the last paragraph they told us to go to one of two rooms: the first for those who were lucky enough to be kept on, for what turned out to be just a little longer, and the second for the rest of us. That was it—no farewell party, no opportunity to justify our jobs or say goodbye to our friends, just a security guard and an impersonal letter in our chairs. No one had the common decency or the guts to add their name or signature to the letter.
To quote a friend of mine who was laid off the same day, “They handled it like we were escaped convicts or something. It was not handled with any kind of dignity at all.”
Within a couple months, Interpath had shrunk from 700 people to just over 200. Within a couple years, by mid-2002, after Bain merged Interpath with its main competitor in Maryland, Interpath was shut down entirely.
To me, what Bain did to Interpath says a lot about the company and the man who founded it, Mitt Romney. Romney may have given up “day-to-day control” of Bain in 1999, but the fact is that he was still the president, CEO, and sole shareholder, and still profited from Bain’s actions when it acquired Interpath and laid off workers like me. I think North Carolinians are smart enough to decide from themselves whether Romney should be held responsible.
We need a President who cares about American workers, not just about profits and investors. We need an economy built from the middle out and not from the top down, in which hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded. Romney says his experience at Bain qualifies him to be president, yet as those of us who worked for Interpath and so many other companies know, this isn’t the kind of experience we need in the Oval Office.