Rick Green: Living the American Dream

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2018/09/20/rick-green-living-the-american-dream/

Rick Green, the Republican candidate for the Massachusetts 3rd Congressional district, which Niki Tsongas is vacating, is in some sense a modern version of the Horatio Alger story. He has the Midas touch. Whatever he has tried has turned to gold.

An Air Force brat whose father was a pilot, he grew up on bases all over the United States. His family moved to Pepperell, Massachusetts when he was thirteen and he enrolled in North Middlesex Regional High School. He excelled there and went on to Cornell to become an engineer. He worked at some first-class enterprises for several years and then headed to the University of Virginia to get a degree in business.

He and his younger brother, Mike, founded 1A Auto, which provides auto parts and know-how to do-it-yourself customers, which now has annual sales of over $200 million. Later he founded Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance – a public policy organization that seeks to establish conservative principles in the economic and political sphere.

Now he has set his sights on serving the people of Massachusetts as the congressman from the 3rd Massachusetts congressional district. Not yet 50 years old, he has accomplished more than most people do in a dozen lifetimes.

But let’s step back and look at some of the details of his life. How has he managed to be so successful?  What enabled him to achieve such lofty goals? What character traits have enabled him to live the American dream?

Born of Yankee stock and raised in a military family which taught him boldness, performance, responsibility, and accountability, Green loved competitive sports in high school. He was good at them and became a leader on whatever team he played. He was quarterback and captain of the football team, and he also captained the basketball and baseball team. He also served as president of the National Honor Society. He graduated in 1988.

At Cornell, although he came from a small high school, he played on both the varsity football and varsity baseball teams. While he only played varsity baseball for a year, he played football for all four years, mostly as a wide receiver. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds, which Rick believes was the fastest time ever on the Cornell football team by the time he graduated.

He went to Cornell because he wanted to be an engineer. He says his father was “something of a car nut,” and thus Rick grew up working on cars. He rebuilt an engine for a classic car when he was 16. In an interview with the NewBostonPost, he said:  “I wanted to be an engineer. I wanted to solve problems and was good at it.” After Cornell, his first job was in Germany with a supplier for Mercedes Benz. But he eventually became a rocket scientist. He worked as a flight assurance engineer (assuring quality control) at Orbital in Virginia. From there he went to NASA supervising the projects that he had been working on at Orbital.

Subsequently, he headed to the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia to get a master’s degree in business administration. While at Darden, he and his brother, Mike, decided to start a company selling auto parts. Actually, according to Rick, the original idea was to create web sites for firms that sold auto parts. But there was little interest in this service so they decided to create their own web site to sell them. In 1999, Rick took $15,000 – all of his liquid assets – and bought an inventory of auto parts. And there was very little demand for their inventory. It looked like the company would fail. To see if he could get his money back, Rick told his brother to try to liquidate inventory. Mike listed auto parts on eBay – with dramatic results. Their auto parts started selling like hotcakes, and within a short time, their sales on eBay represented 2% of all eBay sales in the “Miscellaneous” category. Instead of liquidating, they expanded.

1A Auto was incorporated in 2000 with remarkable results. Through trial and error, the Pepperell/Westford-based company grew sales more than 30% a year. Then in 2011, the company began to show videos of how to install the auto parts which they were selling. This innovation caused sales to ramp up even faster. Currently, 1A Auto employs over 500 people in three locations in Massachusetts. Rick says that he and his brother have never had a business plan which looked out at longer than one year – and they’ve never stuck to a plan for even that long. He is pragmatic and maintains that his flexibility as a problem solver is a key reason for their success.  

Why politics? Rick’s experience with state government has been uniformly negative. He told us, “In the state of Massachusetts, you are guilty until proven innocent.” Most Massachusetts politicians and bureaucrats take a dim view of business owners, and the cards are stacked against you. Whether it’s health care costs, unemployment insurance, or compliance costs, it is an uphill battle for small or medium-size business owners. Rick quotes Ronald Reagan’s famous line, “I’ve always felt the nine most terrifying words in the English language are:  I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

This is why in 2012 he founded the non-partisan Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, whose goal is to promote fiscal responsibility, transparency, and accountability in state government and increase economic opportunity for the people of Massachusetts. He wanted to create a level playing field for business owners who often have to struggle with unhelpful laws passed by the Massachusetts legislature that are enforced by a highly partisan bureaucracy. He served as chairman of Mass Fiscal from 2012 until 2017, when he stepped down to run for Congress.

His political involvement started with Scott Brown’s campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2010. He went to a Scott Brown event in Littleton, and so many people showed up that the event had to be moved outside. Brown energized Green because he was just a regular guy with a pickup truck. It reminded Green of himself. He became a donor and an activist. Before Brown’s run for the Senate, he was unenrolled (meaning that while he voted, he didn’t publicly identify with a political party); not long afterward he registered as a Republican.

Several years later, Green was elected to the Massachusetts State Republican Committee. Then he ran for party chairman and lost, 41-39. Now he tries to avoid divisive party politics and believes that it is critical for the Republican Party in Massachusetts to unite and work together. He says, “My whole campaign is not about fighting, it’s about fixing.”

Rick Green is a much-needed fresh face in Massachusetts. He is a political entrepreneur. He knows how to makes things work. He is not a doctrinaire or ideological politician. He is a pragmatist. Failure is not in his lexicon.  He knows how to make things happen. He understands that in order to create new jobs in Massachusetts, the state needs politicians that wish to help business owners rather than punish them. Massachusetts needs politicians who have proven themselves in the real world – not politicians who have never met a payroll or pander to special interest groups or play identity politics. Voters in the 3rd Massachusetts district have a rare opportunity to elect a person with an extraordinary track record. They should not blow this chance.


Robert H. Bradley is Chairman of Bradley, Foster & Sargent Inc., a $3.7 billion wealth management firm that has offices in Hartford, Connecticut and Wellesley, Massachusetts. This column represents his personal views and does not represent the views of the firm. Read other articles by him here.