Published Date

January 1, 1945

Resource Type

GI Roundtable Series, Primary Source

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

The citizens of thousands of Hometowns are busy these days talking about and planning their postwar futures. Almost invariably their first concern is to make certain that there will be jobs enough. They want to insure a sound and prosperous future so that people’s energies can be used in activities over and above the mere routines of earning a living.

Each community planning program seems to take shape around one central objective. In one town it may be a special program to encourage the establishment of new small businesses; in another a plan to keep war-born industries on a permanent basis; in a third it may be the development of new residential colonies on a Hometown-is-a-good-place-to-live theme.


Albert Lea, Minnesota

If any one town in the United States spells “community planning,” that town is Albert Lea, Minnesota, whose population in 1940 was 12,200. Here is how the people of Albert Lea went about planning to make the town and its surrounding countryside a better place in which to live and work after the war.

As logical step one, Albert Lea set out to “get the facts.” It wanted to know what goals it should plan for and what local assets and raw materials it had to plan with. The first thing Albert Lea’s planning committee did was to make a number of local surveys, most of which were carried out by two hundred “Victory Aides”—women civilian defense volunteers.

The first important fact the committee found was that in 1940 Albert Lea’s labor force consisted of 4,987 people, of whom 4,266 were employed and 721 were unemployed.

Next, the committee examined the current situation, and found that in 1943 the local labor force had increased to 5,655, of whom 5,455 were employed and 200 were unemployed.


Forecasting the future

Then, as its $64 question, the committee tried to find what the situation would be after the war. Their survey of expected changes turned up the following probable increases in the postwar working force

Returning from armed forces 1,012
Returning from farms 125
Returning from other regions 250
Growth and maturity of population (1943–46) 428
Total increase 1,815

To offset this anticipated growth, the committee next made a check of how many workers then in the community would probably drop out of the Albert Lea labor market after the war—with the following results

Returning to farms 125
Returning to other regions 50
Those not seeking postwar jobs 734
Total decrease 909

Subtracting the expected decrease in the labor force from the expected increase showed a net probable increase of 906 people wanting jobs in Albert Lea, or a total postwar labor force of 6,561. This was key fact number one in the committee’s planning program, because it told how marry jobs would be needed.

The next key fact to be determined was how many jobs were being planned by Albert Lea’s employers. A careful survey was made and the number was found to be 5,968. Thus Albert Lea’s planning committee could see that its problem in a nutshell was to plan for 593 new jobs.

Putting the facts to work

The committee felt that the first place to look for 593 new jobs was among the 11 major industries in the community, plus the 442 minor business establishments of all kinds. Secondly, the committee believed that employers would make bolder and more expansive plans if it could be shown that Albert Lea had the potential capacity for such expansion. So they made detailed surveys of what the consumers in Albert Lea were planning to buy after the war, what new construction was planned, and so on.

When they were finished, the facts indicated that whereas in 1940 Albert Lea had done $22,795,000 worth of business, the pressures of war had raised this to $51,443,000 in 1943. And what was more important, the indicated volume of business for the first peacetime year was $49,660,000—more than two and a half times what it had been in 1940.

The committee was able to break this expected business down into such specific facts as these:
1,156 people in the town would buy new automobiles. Surrounding farmers would buy 1,140 more. 442 people were either planning to buy or build a new home.
714 other people were planning to spend at least $300 repairing their old houses.
646 people wanted to buy refrigerators.
578 people wanted new living-room suites. And so on, item by item.

Armed with these specific facts, the committee was then able to go to different employers, such as, for example, a local furniture dealer. He decided that, if such was the outlook, he would hire four more men than he had planned. The local building contractor concluded that he had better double his planned construction crew. Once the committee had had its facts further strengthened by checking with the University of Minnesota, other local employers began to raise their planning sights.

“Jobs Incorporated”

It was in the atmosphere of factual forecasts that 16 Albert Lea businessmen established “Jobs Incorporated.” The idea, in brief, was to set up an organization which would operate under a state charter and with all the procedures of a regular business enterprise. It was to have a capital stock of $100,000, which would be bought and held by local businessmen.

Some of its objectives were:

  1. To do research and locate desirable businesses and industries to be established in Albert Lea.
  2. To encourage and assist present Albert Lea businesses and industries in greater expansion and development.
  3. To provide limited amounts of money as loaned working capital to both new and established businesses.
  4. To assist both present and future businesses with problems of management and research through a staff of experienced technicians and engineers.
  5. To make loans to returning servicemen and others who desire to go into business for themselves and who could demonstrate their qualifications.

Jobs Incorporated has become an integral part of Albert Lea’s planning picture. The community is confident that by the time allits sons are home from the war, local initiative and community foresight will have found more than the 593 new jobs, which were its immediate postwar goal.

Moreover, the community spirit that has grown up goes far beyond the first goal of more jobs. It covers many other things that can be done to make Albert Lea not only a good place to work but a better place to live and grow after victory.

Richmond, Virginia

Richmond, Virginia, surrounded by a number and variety of camps and posts, has had a very large military citizenry all during the war. The townspeople, working through the Chamber of Commerce and their local Committee for Economic Development, have taken advantage of this situation to learn some interesting things about their servicemen. Among other things, they found that:

About 70 percent of the local officers, up to and including the rank of major, were under 30 years of age.

Most of these men were earning more money and held more responsible positions than they had in civilian life.

Many of them had gone directly into the Army from high school or college and therefore had no actual employment or business experience.

Other servicemen, on the contrary, had prewar business experience which was being amplified by their military duties.

Of the total group, many of the officers, as well as a number of enlisted men, wanted to go into business in Richmond after the war.

What they found set Richmond businessmen thinking. They saw in the situation both an opportunity and a responsibility. There was an opportunity to help a number of potential future small businessmen in Richmond and a responsibility, both to the servicemen and to the community, to see that such small new businesses got started on a sound basis right from the planning stage.

They recognized further that these men, upon demobilization, would need information and advice as to their general qualifications for going into business and would want and need actual assistance in getting started.

Richmond business clinic

After talking the entire problem over with the local veterans’ placement bureau and the U. S. Employment Service, the backers of the idea set up a “Business Clinic” which operates as follows

Whenever a demobilized serviceman, calling at either the Richmond U. S. Employment Service or Veterans’ Placement Bureau, indicates a desire to go into business for him-self, he is referred to the Business Clinic. He is also given a small pamphlet to read. It contains 12 very realistic questions which any man thinking of going into business might well ask himself, and 10 items of good advice on such practical matters as sound credit, careful record keeping, and so on.

If, after reading this booklet, the serviceman still believes he has what it takes to go into business, he calls at the Business Clinic.

Here he first talks to a three-man panel of experienced local businessmen drawn from a revolving group of volunteers. They talk over in detail with him such matters as his experience; incentives, choice of business, and some of the problems involved.

If the panel thinks the serviceman is qualified to undertake the business venture he has in mind or some other business agreed upon, he then meets with a second group. This is a committee of businessmen in the special field which he wishes to enter-garage, retail store, restaurant, insurance, appliance dealer, or what have you.

Men who, after the first general interview, are not considered sufficiently qualified to undertake a business venture are referred to a file of employment opportunities and manpower requirements maintained by the 167 member firms of the Richmond Sales Executive Club and a number of individual cooperating companies.

If possible, the man is placed in a line of work where he can gain additional experience pointing toward going into business for himself later on.

As for those showing definite promise and good qualifications for Richmond small businessmen—after they have met and passed muster with the panel of advisers in their own chosen field—they are then referred to banking representatives in order to establish the necessary line of credit and to a real-estate advisory group which assists each prospective new businessman in obtaining the proper location with respect to rent, budget, market, and other factors.

In summary, the purposes and methods of the Richmond Business Clinic are: to seek out the facts—the real qualifications and sincerity of the applicant; to encourage, advise, and assist servicemen who seem qualified to go into business for themselves; to discourage those who are not yet qualified, thus preventing a potential business failure; and to assist these less qualified candidates to find jobs in which they will gain experience aiming toward later businesses for themselves.

Bradenton, Florida

Bradenton, Florida, a small agricultural town of 7,500, heard of the Richmond plan. But Bradenton is building a reputation for never stopping with just one new idea.

In the first place, this small town has a system for swinging all its community energies behind a good idea almost at the drop of a hat. Vehicle for such speedy action is the Presidents’ Round Table, which is a community group composed of the heads of the 16 different clubs and organizations which operate in Bradenton-such as Rotary, women’s clubs, veterans’ organizations, and others.

The council meets regularly to consider town problems, community campaigns, war bond drives, and the like, and to hear about such new ideas as Richmond’s Business Clinic. As soon as this idea was reported to the council, the 16 presidents hotfooted it back to their own groups, as is their custom, to report.

Bradentonians who are members of the various organizations allowed as how here was a first-rate community approach to veterans’ problems. Result: They have taken up where Richmond left off, added some new ideas of their own, and now have a Veterans’ Service Placement Committee which is so completely equipped to serve veterans that it has been designated as an “official” body for that purpose by the War Manpower Commission.

But helping servicemen get reestablished is only a means to an end. Bradenton has made other postwar plans too. To begin with, its planning committee has made a very careful survey of how many new jobs are being planned by the town’s business people and farmers. Also, they’ve made a door-by-door check of what everybody is planning to build or buy that will create local employment. They claim they know even how many new alarm clocks are in the offing.

But in one sense Bradenton’s future is up in the air—even though the reason for this is good down-to-earth planning. Local prosperity revolves around Bradenton’s crops of citrus fruit and winter vegetables, and much depends on how fast such products can get to market.

Having watched the Army Air Forces freighting jeeps and other heavy cargo in and out of nearby Sarasota-Bradenton Air Base during the war, the local folks have decided those jeeps could just as well be cases of tomatoes, oranges, or strawberries. Accordingly, Bradenton has joined forces with Manatee City and two local counties in arrangements to buy the airfield after the war. They have also concluded plans with commercial air lines to ship their farm products to market by air after the war.

Franklin Square, Long Island

Franklin Square, Long Island, is an unincorporated town of 12,000 people which straddles Hempstead Turnpike some 20 miles outside of New York City. The town has no industry. Formerly an agricultural area, the land is now largely taken up with suburban homes.

Local business consists almost exclusively of about 25 stores of all types which line both sides of the main thorough-fare for a distance of approximately four blocks. The retail merchants were all doing exceptionally well during the present war period.

Present prosperity, however, seemed to hinge largely on the fact that gasoline rationing and other wartime controls forced residents to do their shopping locally. Indications were that with the return of peace many would go back to shopping in nearby competitive communities, where larger, more modern stores are located.

The only real solution, and therefore the prime element in the town’s postwar planning, seemed to be to modernize the shopping facilities. But, because these were individually owned by small businessmen with limited capital, and since, to be successful, the plan called for a virtual modernizing of the entire business community, ‘it posed a challenging problem.

To meet the challenge, all the local businessmen were called together in a single meeting. The probabilities of postwar loss in trade were explained to them in simple facts and figures. Then the following daring proposal was made by the community planning committee:

  1. The entire business community would “have its face lifted” by the redesigning of every store front in an early colonial motif.
  2. Next the interior of every store would be modernized with proper layout, counter and sales space, perhaps air conditioning.
  3. The local bank would make such loans as were needed to each businessman over and above what he could carry out of his own resources. All loans were to be at a low rate of interest and amortized over a period of 5 years.
  4. Instead of being done piecemeal, the project would be done as one major undertaking by a group of architects, builders, and contractors.
The concrete results

The local businessmen have subscribed to the plan 100 percent.

A single architectural layout has been made of the pro-posed new “Main Street.” A group of large concerns, both industrial and commercial, have supplied experts to aid in the planning. A number of contracts have been entered into to do the work as soon as materials are available.

Besides these actions bearing directly on the merchants’ collective decision to modernize their business properties, the following additional planning projects have been inaugurated in Franklin Square

  1. An option has been taken on a large area to be made into a shoppers’ parking lot after the war. Bonds have been taken up by the merchants to pay the costs of the land, resurfacing, administration, etc.
  2. A series of commerce and industry forums have been held. at which manufacturers and dis-tributors have been invited to discuss with Franklin Square businessmen their postwar products, services, merchandising plants, etc.
  3. A Project Register has been created in cooperation with the local bank, where both merchants and townspeople can sign up with suppliers or builders for particular postwar undertakings. Special banking accounts have been set up to insure that the necessary funds will be available.
  4. A Buyers’ Advisory Bureau, which anyone can consult for information and advice on postwar construction, equipment, or services, has also been established. The bureau is in regular contact with manufacturers, distributors, govern-ment agencies, and other sources from which such advisory assistance can be obtained.
  5. A Purchase Club has been started. Special savings accounts can be opened at the bank or inlocal stores, which will transfer them to the bank for the depositor-and built up toward the purchasing of specific postwar items. Six hundred such accounts were opened in the first 2 months of operation.
  6. A public works program has been started by the planning committee in cooperation with the proper authorities. It looks forward to the erection of a new post office, an incinerator and refuse disposal plant, a new public park and municipal center, and an additional secondary school.

Not content with continuing to plan in such realistic fashion for the future of their community, the economic structure of which is made up entirely of small commercial businesses, the Franklin Square planners have arranged nothing less than an hour and a half network television broadcast to show what one small town can do.

Worcester, Massachusetts

Postwar planners in Worcester, Massachusetts, turned up the fact that not one of the many large business enterprises in Worcester started with a capital of more than $25,000. Some of them now have branches outside the United States, but they started small and grew big on the strength of their own efforts.

Accordingly, when the local employment surveys showed that Worcester might have a chronic postwar deficit of 9,000 to 12,000 jobs, the logical place to lookfor these needed jobs seemed to be among the community’s 300 concerns employing 50 people or less. If these little businesses could be helped to grow from small beginnings as the neigh-boring big businesses had already done, their growth would solve the local problem of potential unemployment.

To put some action behind this line of reasoning the Chamber of Commerce reorganized its Industrial Bureau to aid the expansion of local enterprise by:

  1. Providing production, accounting, and sales engineering counsel to small industries.
  2. Helping arrange financial credits, through existing institutions, to small enterprises which show sound prospects.
  3. Assisting the development of foreign trade through skilled counsel and in-the-field services.

To put this program into effect the Industrial Bureau will include on its staff the following experts with experience in the special problems of small business:

  1. A specialist in accounting and production problems, and
  2. a specialist in product engineering and sales. These two experts will advise small businessmen on their problems of management, production, merchandising, and in determining credit and capital needs. They will also help them obtain whatever types of outside credit, services, materials, or personnel are found to be needed.
  3. A competent foreign-trade expert who will counsel local businesses on export problems and will travel part time in foreign countries seeking out new markets for Worcester industries.
  4. A domestic field representative who will locate new markets for Worcester products within the United States.

The work of these staff members of the Industrial Bureau will be filled out by such general services as:

  1. Development of local inventions by helping to determine which ones are of practical value and giving patenting and production assistance, either through established companies or new organizations.
  2. Advertising and promotion services. For instance, advertising will stress Worcester’s central geographical position in New England as an ideal branch warehouse and distribution point. The prestige of its products will be built up by promoting its reputation for skilled labor, high-quality standards, and progressive business principles.
  3. Local businessmen will be generally aided by the Industrial Bureau through regular information services. These will include surveys of markets, labor supplies, utility services, real-estate sales, rentals, available industrial sites, new sources of. materials, available research services, etc.

In general, the Worcester Industrial Bureau will seek to provide its small businessmen with those types of professional services and business information which are not readily obtainable through their own limited staffs and resources. The Bureau will be equipped equally well to help a manufacturer market safety pins in Guatemala or locate a reliable sales agent to cover the Corn Belt; to find in Worcester a new plant with a railroad siding, or to secure war-house space in an Oriental free port.

Next section: Big Cities Also Look to the Future