BUSINESS WEEK: In Stockton, Calif., and Detroit, you’re visiting cities with the two largest municipal bankruptcies in U.S. history. These are all places dealing with industrial decline. A lot of them have poverty rates far above the national average. How can Square address some of the problems?
DORSEY: No matter how much of our life moves online, we’re always going to have our favorite places around the corner from us. I think we’ve seen a diminishment of the town square: the coffee house, the bar, the salon. They connect us, not only to that shop owner, but to the community itself. If you improve this foundation, you have the potential to incite more conversations about what else needs to be fixed in the community—not just around commerce, but generally.
It’s something we believe very, very strongly in. My father, when he was 19, owned a pizza restaurant. My mother owned a coffee store in St. Louis. My great-grandmother owned a convenience store in St. Louis, and all were central focus points in the community. I don’t think that’s diminished with the rise of the Internet at all….
BUSINESS WEEK: None of these town halls is going to fix what’s going on in Detroit or St. Louis on its own. What do you want to see happen after you have these community meetings?
DORSEY: Square can only help provide a venue. It has to be the people of the community that fix their problems. We’re hoping to inspire a conversation that is ongoing. It has to be driven by the community: We need to talk, we need to take this on ourselves, we need to own it, we need to build it. And that’s the way to fix our community, and that’s the way to fix our economy.