Capitalist Conscience

Hard-driving 31-year-old entrepreneur Justin Anderson makes no apologies for unfettered capitalism—after all, this is a man who named his contracting firm, Galt Development, for the hero of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. But he also understands that people get left behind—and he’s devoted a big part of his life to helping them.

Anderson’s contracting expertise has made him an ideal partner for Habitat for Humanity: He’s become one of the charity’s go-to guys for everything from construction equipment to traffic control (one of his enterprises, The Barricade Co., provides those ubiquitous orange cones for road projects).

He’s also the president of Los Vaqueros, a nonprofit organization of 46 local businessmen that helps children in need. The Spanish term means “cowboys”—gentlemen cowboys, says Anderson. Among the group’s recent good deeds was the purchase of shoes for 360 kids at Lowman Elementary. Los Vaqueros adopted Lowman in 2009. That year, Anderson oversaw the creation of a self-irrigating fruit and vegetable garden in the school’s courtyard. Today cultivating the garden is part of the students’ curriculum. They’ve even begun to grow bugs there—and, in a twist that would appeal to Anderson, selling the extra bugs to other schools.

When I ask Anderson how it is that a disciple of Rand—known for touting “rational selfishness”—is so generous, he sends me her lengthy 1964 Playboy interview in which the novelist admits, “There is nothing wrong in helping other people, if and when they are worthy of the help and you can afford to help them.” “I have the time. I have the energy,” says Anderson, although the bachelor admits that he’s particular about his causes and how his money is spent. He prefers projects that provide for the recipients to provide for themselves, like the school garden. Then he points to his favorite cause—kids: “They become our governing bodies,” he says. “If we aren’t making sure they receive what they need, then what’s it all for?”

Meanwhile, Anderson keeps building his business portfolio. In addition to Galt and the Barricade Company, he leads Terra Contracting, a “horizontal construction company” that does the tough work of grading, paving and utilities. His most recent venture is a change of pace: Confess Media is the event-photography business that put up the replica Las Vegas sign with which tourists pose at McCarran International Airport’s Terminal 1 baggage claim. His partners in the project are former friends from Durango High School. In high school, Anderson worked construction with his parents’ company during the summer months. After graduating from Durango in 1999, he did a semester at the University of San Diego, then another stint at UNLV. Then he quit.

“I found I’d just as soon be working,” he says.