Sonja Bata is a personal friend of ours and as I said in Work the Pond! she is one of my heroes. I know her from our Canadian Navy connection, (where we were both honorary captains and she continues on in that role today). Gayle and I also saw her regulary at the World Economic Forum in Davos with her husband Tom, founder of the Bata Shoe Company in Ontario. We have always been amazed by her energy and commitment to giving back (eg The Bata Shoe Museum and a host of other worthy causes). Sonja is truly amazing. At a fabulous 82 she has taken on a new challenge. To rebuild a a ghost town, reported in the 25 June 09 edition of the Globe and Mail.
As Chief Executive of the Rix Center for Corporate Citizenship and Engaged Leadership at The Vancouver Board of Trade, I am particularly interested in Sonja's latest project. She is looking to restore an abandoned Bata factory in the town of Batawa--a company town. Her goal is to create new revitalized center for the area with a gutsy plan. In my travels I have driven through many old "ghost towns", where the factories have disappeared, where industry has packed up and moved away. Abandoning the place (and the people) where you made your business successes or where you tapped into the resources only to move away is not the model for corporate citizenship and engaged leadership, but it happens all the time. Sonja Bata remembers the roots of the Bata success in Canada after she and Tom moved their company from Czechoslavkia as a result of the the Second World War and she felt that responsibility to the community of Batawa. Bravo Zulu Sonja.