Perry, OK (population 5,400) is a “land rush” town, having been founded by history’s largest land rush on September 16, 1893. Wanting to escape the harsh winters of Maple Leaf, MN, Carl Frederick Malzahn soon moved to Perry and started the Malzahn Blacksmith and Machine Shop. His sons Gustave and Charles took over the business in 1913 when their father passed away.
Charles son, Ed Malzahn, invented the world famous Ditch Witch, the first compact trenching machine in 1949. Malzahn, now 83, still lives in Perry and has been making the machines there ever since. His granddaughter Tiffany Sewell-Howard, CEO of The Charles Machine Works, is the 5th generation of Malzahns to live and work in Perry.
Today the company employs 1,200 in the town, has helped other entrepreneurs to start related businesses (that cluster thing) and given back greatly to the community. I visited the Heritage Center, which includes a museum to the Ditch Witch and a community theater. Companies like Charles make such a big impact upon small towns like Perry.