Between Utopia and Exploitationville
Historian Hardy Green set out to document the country’s company towns and explore why they worked or, far more often, failed. Some towns, like Kannapolis and Hershey, were designed and constructed by their company founders; others, like Flint and Bartlesville, became one-company towns gradually. A few partnerships, such as Hormel Foods Corp. and Austin, Minn., had long runs—in Hormel’s case, “a company-employee-community social contract that lasted for more than forty years.” Most fell apart as soon as a shaky bottom line required the company to cut back not only working hours but town services. And one corporation has managed to maintain pretty much the same relationship with its thriving town for more than 120 years to date. Green spoke about his new book, The Company Town: The Industrial Edens and Satanic Mills That Shaped the American Economy.
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