An Entreprenuer's Perspective on Education and Taxes

by John Gregory | 04/07/14 1:23 PM

The first experience John Williams had with a computer came at the University of Kentucky in the late 1950s. The vacuum tubes in the early machine generated so much heat that students nearly had to wear bathing suits to tolerate being in the room with it.

Technology and Williams have both come a long way since those days in the basement of McVey Hall. The Paducah entrepreneur and businessman discussed his life and work on this weekend's edition of One to One with Bill Goodman.

While a junior at UK, Williams developed an idea for a business that would become Computer Services Inc. Founded in Paducah in 1965, the company now provides processing and compliance services to the banking and financial industry in all 50 states. CSI has 1,100 employees, including 300 in Kentucky.

Education is the Key
In addition to growing his company, Williams has been active in civic life in Western Kentucky and in Frankfort. Concerned about poverty in Paducah, the self-proclaimed data hound did his own study of local census data to better understand the problem. Williams then collaborated with the United Way of McCracken County to create an education program designed to alleviate poverty. The wide-ranging project includes improving reading performance among third-graders, mentoring junior high students, and educating adults on personal finance.

"The only way we improve is through education," Williams says. "Whether that is improving the skill sets that are available in our state, whether that is targeting new education programs for new types of jobs, or whether that is thinking about education programs targeting to lift people out of poverty and to cut down on generational poverty, education is the key to all of the above."

On a state level, Williams has worked with the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce to create its Leadership Institute for School Principals. In three years, more than 150 principals have completed the program, which helps them develop leadership skills to better serve their students, teachers, boards, and communities.

Encouraging Tax Reform
Williams also served on Gov. Steve Beshear's Blue Ribbon Commission on Tax Reform. He lauded the group's proposals to make the state tax system more competitive, fair, simple, and flexible.

Although the current session of the legislature did not address tax reform, Williams said it's still a critical issue for the commonwealth, especially when it comes to competing with neighboring states. He expressed optimism that the proposal to allow local-option sales taxes might find success until a broader tax reform package can be tackled.

Watch the full One to One conversation