John Hazen White, Jr.


Award Profile

Courageous Thinking and Action
John Hazen White, Jr. has operated his family’s company, Taco, Inc., since the mid-1990s and is the third member of his family to do so. In the early 1990s, when the company was buffeted by a recession, sluggish sales and too much inventory, he and his father wrestled with what to do. One idea was to relocate from RI to a state promising generous tax credits and other incentives. Determined to stay in RI in large part because of the company’s incredibly loyal
workforce, John convinced his father that instead of relocating the better path was to dig into the company’s problems and restructure the business. He asked his father for six months and then six months more as he went about reorganizing Taco with outside help. Taco recovered, returned to profitability and began its ascent to becoming one of the Ocean State’s most successful and innovative manufacturers.

Vision and Innovation
Two years ago Taco opened up its Innovation & Development Center, a state-of-the-art training and education center for the enrichment of industry professionals and Taco’s workforce. The new Taco IDC was needed because it would replace a two-decade old Learning Center that was long past its prime. Th ere was also a pressing need to modernize Taco’s corporate and office environments to bring them forward to contemporary standards. But all this work came with a steep price tag amidst tough economic times. Such a bricks and mortar investment would also further tie the company’s future to Cranston, RI. John White Jr. understood the need to make such an investment and what that commitment would mean for his employees, even if it meant taking on new debt. Th e project was completed on a fast track in just two years’ time.

Inspiring Leadership
Like his father before him but with a much broader focus and impact, John White, Jr. is committed to reforming RI government and making government serve the will of the people. To this end, he has labored tirelessly over the years in support of good government reform, supporting both established citizen watchdog organizations and grass root efforts in causes such as separation of powers, casino gambling, ethics reform, the master lever and, most recently, a constitutional convention. He has spent his own money both publicly and quietly in many other efforts that aim to make RI a better place to live and work, and reformers around
the state and across many issues know that they can count on him for help.

Community Mindedness
One of Taco’s core principles is to “give back to the community,” something that inspired John’s parents and which he has advanced to a much higher and more encompassing level through the work of the Taco/White Family Foundation, which is funded by company profits made possible by the efforts of Taco’s employees. Upon his mother’s passing, John reorganized and revitalized the company’s charitable arm and made it into one of the state’s leading private
organizations. The work of the Taco/White Family Foundation focuses on RI-based non-profit organizations working in these areas of civic life: music/arts, education, healthcare, communities and the environment. The Foundation provides grants in varying amounts to numerous organizations across the state, totaling around $1-million a year.

JA Mission Moment
Junior Achievement has long been known for helping to grow and develop young people in preparation for their entering the working world. I have had the distinct pleasure of working with a fifth grade class at the Carl Lauro School. It is so apparent when sharing time with these young people how incredibly smart and insightful they are and how much they truly have to off er our world and society. It is refreshing to have the opportunity through Junior Achievement to be reminded to never underestimate the power and intelligence of these youngsters. It has truly been a pleasure through Junior Achievement to work with such fine people who will undoubtedly participate in leading our country and our world.