Bob Mitchell: ‘Build it and they will come’

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

It might have been the Missouri Industrial Development people who first came up with the idea of, build a building and they (industry) will come.

Cassville had that in mind years ago with the proposal to construct an “incubator” building on the south end of the Industrial Park that the city had just acquired.

The Industrial Development Corporation consulted with the state and others about such a facility and determined it should be in a rectangular shape, long and narrow. The concept was to have space available in which small, beginning industries could locate and grow eventually into their own building.

Plans were drawn

At that time, George “Huck” Ulmer was representing Miller-Newell and Associates, an engineering firm out of Arkansas. His offices were in the old Hall Theater building on the west side of the square.

Huck went right to work on the set of plans that eventually received IDC approval, but that’s as far as the project went.

While I was visiting our kids in Colorado and left a member of city government and the IDC in charge of pushing the project along, low and behold, when I returned, the project had been dropped.

One thing of interest was that Bill Easley insisted Ulmer be paid for his work — a move that didn’t set well with either the city or the IDC, but for sure and certain, was accomplished. Ulmer was reluctant to take the payment, but insistence prevailed and that ended the project.

Along came Alvey

Then in 1983, Cassville hit it lucky by receiving a confidential inquiry from an engineering firm concerning a possible industrial prospect. The firm had secretly visited the town and determined it to be a viable prospect for their future plant.

IDC efforts obtained 20 acres on Sale Barn Road (a name that should now be changed) from Gary Keen and Johnny Eggleston in the amount of $32,000. The site had existing utilities in place and was acceptable to the new company’s representative. As soon as the option on the land was in place the industry was identified as Alvey Inc., a St. Louis based conveyor manufacturer.

Cassville quickly learned the Alvey firm was a fine group to work with. They wanted to be a part of the community and made every effort to be a good neighbor. Their CEO was Paul Putzel, who stayed in touch with this area after their departure.

Why Alvey left

At the time conveyor popularity was hitting a high point, and the Alvey people decided they didn’t choose to move the company into the next generation of the equipment. An eager buyer came along and the sale was made. Shortly after the change was made, the new owners announced a decision to move to brighter lights.

The departure was swift with a few problems existing between the new firm and IDC regarding efforts for them to move the property. The difficulties were resolved and the building went on the market.

Thorco on the scene

A Marman Company out of Lamar, Thorco Inc., became interested in the property and began negotiations for the well-constructed building. One of their officials was familiar to the IDC, a member of the Love family of McDonald County.

Thorco and the building owners dickered over facilities that would remain in the building for a couple of weeks. During this time the IDC put together their package of incentives, including payment of county taxes for a determined sum, to encourage the company’s arrival in Cassville.

It came to pass, and Thorco became a part of Cassville’s manufacturing companies in 1993. Their contracts with Walmart ran out and the firm pulled back to their base at Lamar. A few years later, they expanded to an available space in Nevada.

Now comes Wintech

Just in the past couple of weeks, a Monett firm, Wintech completed their announcement of opening operations in the local structure. Ironically, this is the second Monett firm, following Wells Aluminum, to locate window manufacturing plants in Cassville.

Announcements of the arrival of this third company to occupy this building did not outline any of the details, except excluding some information concerning early talks between the company and Cassville.

The best part of the story is that the structure is now providing a payroll for Cassville and a vacant structure is no longer without a tenant.

Build and they will come

Whatever the origin of this possibility, it’s come into reality. The building was available and Cassville now has a new manufacturing partner.

There is still a thought in some minds today concerning what would have happened if the incubator concept had been completed years ago?

Would Cassville have a place for small industry to begin and hopefully grow?

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.