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(Previous Columns)

Dec. 30, 2004


Individuals in Business

Building America One Community at aTime

by: Steve Davis

I grew up on a farm near Smithshire Illinois, where the local elevator was owned by a family named Twomey.  Their logo a picture of a large concrete elevator above the text “Our country was developed by individuals in business, let us keep it that way” was on everything they handed out to customers:  match books, calendars, and cook books. My father and grandfather along with many other local people helped build the concrete elevator in 1956.  I never thought a lot about the slogan it seemed obvious to me at the time.  Everyone I knew was an individual in business my father, our farmer neighbors, Walt, the local mechanic, Kenny and Hack, the owners of the service station, Carl the owner of the grocery store, even Burt, the local corn sheller, trucker, and bootlegger.  The Twomey family still owns the now much larger Twomey Co and still uses the same logo. The elevator remains the center of Smithshire’s skyline, actually it is the skyline.  The business climate is greatly different than 1956. Farm families still operating their farms number only 20% of those farming in 1956. Every current farmer is much larger than when I was a small boy.  Few have a full time hired man, as was common when every farm had some type of livestock. This reduction in people on the land has had dramatic effects on the rural towns. Smithshire with more economic activity per capita than any other town in America has changed as all other farm towns have over the years. Walt retired and there is no mechanic now, his son who used to work with him had gone to work for Maytag in Galesburg.  His Maytag job is now lost to outsourcing. The service station was forced to close because it was too expensive to implement the new EPA standards. The grocery store closed in the 1960’s.

There are no corncribs for corn shellers to shell out.  There are no bootleggers left in Smithshire either, at least to my knowledge.  It seems individuals in business are far fewer in our current society.

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Twomey Company (Smithshire)

A high school friend of mine, his father also a farmer, told me friends at college laughed when he referred to the hired man that worked for his father. Wasn’t everyone a hired man? 

I am not on a nostalgia trip down memory lane.  If you miss corncribs and ear corn, I bet you never scooped out a crib.  I am trying to point out that trends both economic and social change our quality of life. Think about places where there is rapid housing growth, Naperville is a good example in Illinois. Southern states have many rapid growth areas. Many may see rapid growth as a positive, an opportunity for business, and an increase in the tax base. I see more growth of soulless communities.  Places without a mutual history, sense of interdependence, or vision of a common future.  How much of ourselves would any of us be willing to give to a community where we didn’t expect our children to live or expect to still be living there ourselves in five years?  Compare this type of community to Elmwood.  Elmwood has many people donating time and resources to make a better future.  Many of the projects that people are involved in will not benefit them, but will benefit the future residents of Elmwood. We benefit greatly from those who in times long before you or I lived here made a commitment to the future of Elmwood.  This is how a real community works. The people who have commitment to the future of their communities are often those individuals in business that the Twomey logo emphasizes.  In their community of Warren and Henderson Counties the Twomey family has shown great commitment and generosity. The Twomey Company is certainly a shining example of individuals in business developing our country.  You may think that individuals running their own businesses are economic models of a past time.  This need not and should not be our choice as a modern society.

People often mistakenly believe keeping individuals in business means trying to prop up outmoded business methods. There are many ways to make use of modern communication and transportation technology  

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in a way to make small business more profitable. It is important to see changing purchasing habits. One trend is the break down of retailers and wholesalers as a distribution method.   Customers don’t need someone to have inventory and resell merchandise as they used to before on line shopping. Our customers don’t need us as a merchandiser, but they still need our expertise.If people want our advice and help with a computer, Elmnet doesn’t put computers in inventory and sell computer hardware.  Elmnet will help a customer find the best deal, and it will be delivered as soon as the next day.

Elmnet does sell a solid secure Internet connection for the new computer; we are available to come in person to resolve any problem. Is the large corporation going to help you in such a personal fashion?  The person you talk to will have no idea where you live, and after you finally do talk with a real person the quality of actual support is often rather pathetic.  Every business needs to keep up and better deliver its services to the customer, but small businesses have some advantages to market. 

Our tax system favors the large corporation and companies sometimes referred to as small businesses are not an individual in business as Vic Twomey meant it. You may feel you can’t reform our government, but you can help the community where you live. If you value your community then you will seek out individuals who do all they can to make sure their business meets your needs. When you talk to the owner you will find some one who will take your suggestions seriously. Communicating your needs and desires can bring surprisingly quick results when you are able to talk to the person in charge. The future of our posterity as the constitution phrases it requires a careful consideration of our choices as a democratic people.   We benefit and suffer due to choices of earlier generations, so this responsibility is not to be dismissed so lightly. We’ve heard so much talk of values in the politics of our nation these past few years. You cannot always change the political climate, but you can choose to live by your values and work with people who value you as an individual.  People who want to strengthen your community with you. As Vic Twomey said “Our country was developed by individuals in business, let us keep it that way”

Questions or comments please email "The Steve"


I may write controversial things, but I'm not petty.

I never intend to be controversial; so I am always amazed when I write something that raises people's ire.

In these columns I will try to stay thoughtful and seek to evaluate life as it unfolds not through any lens.

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by: Steve Davis

We are ill served by those who seek to create smoke to cover their tracks instead of discussing the issues.

Most partisan debate is not intended to lead towards a workable compromise, but is put forth to defend a pre-determined policy.

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Our society has the technology to hand we the people the tools to truly interact with our government, but most political activity is designed to put our government in the control of, as few hands, as possible.

We should speak up and claim our rights as American citizens.

Do you vote?


So if I arouse your ire or just your thoughts, you can interact with me just --- email me.

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