I was thrilled and also a bit intimidated to get a chance to talk to about 400 people at the Vision 2020 Celebration of Excellence in Teutopolis, IL (population 1,559) where I was born and raised. Once you get over 25 miles away from home, some people will consider you an expert but those who remember what you were like as a kid often have a different opinion. Thankfully, no one mentioned the time that I climbed out onto the roof of the high school library and was caught by the principal.
When I drove into T-Town (as we knew it as kids), shortening the name from the phonetic Too-Top-Less, I started counting the number of businesses on Main Street. I lost count at 42 but John Wessel, a third generation grocer, told me that there were over 100 businesses in the town, or about one for every 16 residents!
I related to the group in my talk that T-Town is a very unique town, because there are more people who work there each day (1,800) than sleep there at night (1,559). In my travels around the USA over the past three years I’ve only found about a half dozen such towns. Some that come quickly to mind are Nappanee, IN (population 6,710) and Sidney, NE (population 6,282). Nappanee was also the only town I’ve been in that had an entire industrial park without any electricity. The Amish plant owners run all of their operations off of individual generators, much to the dismay of the local utility company. And, Sidney is home to Cabella’s, the outdoor mega retailer.
I always remembered T-Town as being a very entrepreneurial town and virtually every one of those 100+ local businesses that John Wessel told me about were started and expanded locally. Not one was recruited in.
If you get a chance, stop by to visit T-Town. I’ll be happy to show you where I lived on Pearl Street.