Published Date

January 1, 1945

Resource Type

GI Roundtable Series, Primary Source

From GI Roundtable 33: What Will Your Town Be Like? (1945)

As early as the summer of 1942, it was already becoming evident that the size and force of the war effort would greatly change and expand our normal peacetime producing capacity and business patterns. It was also clear that the most careful planning would be necessary to enable individual business employers, as well as communities, to reconvert quickly to a postwar period of expanded output and well-paid productive employment.

Companies that had been manufacturing kiddy cars and baby buggies were making fixtures for tanks or triggers for antiaircraft guns. Most prime war contractors had subcontractors and these in turn had sub-subcontractors and these in turn had sub-sub-subcontractors. Scarcely a town in the nation did not in some way have a hand in the great effort to train and equip our fighting forces.

More than a million various sized businesses which were in operation before Pearl Harbor have ceased to exist. But half a million new businesses have started, and there are indications that many returning veterans, warworkers, and others who have learned new skills during the war intend to go into business for themselves after victory.

It was clear that if such a welter of industrial and business changes and new economic forces were to be properly directed, a great deal of advance planning would have to be done—both by communities and by individual businesses within those communities. And only by sound and progressive planning could we expect to bring about a rapid conversion to peacetime operations and an expansion in business activity to provide new high levels of employment.


Is job planning the key?

From the beginning, many were convinced that the only kind of postwar planning currency that would ultimately pay off was jobs. Study indicated that altogether we would need between 7 and 10 million more new jobs than we had in 1940, or a total of around 55 million. Such an increase would require an expansion of production and business activity of 30 to 45 percent over 1940.

How could such an increase be obtained? How could the country’s 2 million employers, large and small, in all types of businesses, be encouraged to make bold progressive plans for their individual businesses and to create jobs for returning servicemen and civilians?

It was to encourage such planning that a group of American businessmen, in the fall of 1942, formed a National Committee for Economic Development. It was established as a voluntary, nonpolitical, and nonprofit organization, for the single purpose of encouraging sound and aggressive post-war planning.

The C.E.D. is by no means alone in the field, but since its planning program is both typical and widespread, its activities are described briefly below. Almost every town or city in the United States of 10,000 population or over has a local Committee for Economic Development, and so do nearly a thousand smaller communities.

Is local planning the best way?

In November of 1942, the C.E.D. began to organize community committees for economic development on what its trustees called a “grass roots” basis. Each community C.E.D. was urged to begin its program with a careful survey to measure: employment in 1940; employment at present; and expected employment or the number of jobs already planned for after the war. If the last figures didn’t add up to the expected number of people who would be wanting jobs in that town, then the committee at least knew what goals it had to aim for.

Each local C.E.D. is completely independent. The National C.E.D. does not care what goals a given committee sets, as long as individual employers in the community are stimulated to begin thinking and acting on their own postwar plans.

This “job approach” apparently appealed to businessmen and community leaders all over the nation. By the fall of 1944 there were more than 2,000 community C.E.D. committees with some 50,000 members, from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon. Returns from their job surveys showed that, in the average community, local employers were planning between 20 and 30 percent more jobs than they had in 1940, and many returns showed much higher figures.

Obviously, the most realistic and carefully made of such plans can only, at this point, reflect the intentions of the individual employers who have made them. But they reflect a confidence in the postwar future which is itself a very important factor.

Chambers of Commerce, service clubs, educational institutions, labor-and agricultural organizations, and many other local and national groups have undertaken postwar planning programs of one kind or another. For example, Rotary Clubs throughout the country have sponsored a postwar “workpile” program. This is a survey of specific building and repairing projects actually being planned in a given community, and which will provide actual jobs after the war.