Bob Mitchell: The people made it happen

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

My last week’s column went into some detail about the initial building of an industrial base in Cassville nearly 50 years ago — the mid-1970s to be exact — however, one important factor was not covered.

There were needs of a major manufacturing concern that had to be met by the small community that involved utilities, subsequently requiring the people to tax themselves over a considerable number of years.

The task of getting details of the program – hoping for a favorable response – fell on the Industrial Development Corporation, whose personnel wasn’t that many, resulting in a call to the Chamber of Commerce, whose business members responded in force for the program to come.

Contacting everyone

The effort was based on contacting every person who would vote in a city bond issue, giving them the full facts and relying on their good judgment to wake up Cassville and get her people job opportunities. Other objectives were to keep young people at home with job opportunities and bring back others who had departed to work in other areas.

Presentations were designed to be completely forthright in the program, to overcome some slight opposition at the opening.

Program material was to be distributed by individuals to residences in the evening. It was surprising who and how many showed up at the indoctrination meeting to deliver materials. They were provided every detail of the projects in case there were questions that developed outside the printed material.

Each of the messengers was assigned no less than a block of town. All were instructed if they encountered serious opposition to walk away, but let a headquarters know of the objections.

On the evening to conduct the informational excursion, everyone arrived at the designated time, lining up at the C of C for their assignment block. This was conducted a couple of evenings before the vote, and everything got quiet around town as city and civic officials wondered how the program had been accepted.

Response was tremendous

After the polls closed Election Day, and the votes were tabulated, judges announced only 15 opposition ballots in the boxes. It was noted at the time (without researching further) that the voter numbers making the decision was one of the city’s largest in years.

Especially proud of being part of the effort were a number of newcomers to town who were among the first to volunteer and subsequently be assigned their area of material distribution.

People involved again

Other people programs during that period were job survey efforts for both Jumping-Jacks Shoes (preceding Justin Boot) and then FASCO Industry (eventually Regal). That was when folks formerly of Cassville seized the opportunity to get their names in the pot for jobs with a respected company.

In these programs there might have been some padding of those signing applications, but our speculation that experienced personnel desiring to return to Cassville proved correct and swelled the numbers well above expectations of both local officials and prospective employers. Quality of applications played an important part in the acceptance.

A success story

The experience of the programs is still remembered, as a young woman recently told of being in high school when IDC officials spoke to students urging them to attend the surveys. According to her, that was her first job opportunity that kept her from leaving home following graduation.

Today, many of those who came to the school classroom to complete questionnaires are among the retirees of the respective manufacturers.

All county high schools cooperated in the recruitment efforts based primarily on audiences of the senior classes.

Earlier programs helped

Ahead of the requirement of incoming possibilities, Cassville voters had acted to improve water and sewer services, principally to eliminate septic tanks and outdoor privies.

Moves to meet new employers didn’t take all that big a bite out of tax structures, since previous officials had filled responsibilities.

That, as they say, “in a nutshell,” is the action of Cassville’s people, acting under no government direction, completely on their own, to make things better for the future.

Off the spike

These were taken from the American Legion Magazine:

• Scientists say the universe is made up of neutrons, protons and electrons. They forgot to say morons.

• Maybe if we tell people the brain is an app, we will start using it.

My comment: “Sounds like Washington, D.C.?”

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat. He is a 2017 inductee to both the Missouri Press Association Hall of Fame and Missouri Southern State University’s Regional Media Hall of Fame.