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Company town

From Academic Kids

A company town is a town or city in which all or almost all real estate, buildings (both residential and commercial), utilities, hospitals, small businesses such as grocery stores and gas stations, and other necessities or luxuries of life within its borders are owned by a single company. Company towns were formed by the transcontinental railroads, which bought tracts of land flanking their right-of-way before deciding where to site stations. Other traditional settings for company towns were where extractive industries — coal, metal mines, corporate timber — had purchased a monopoly franchise. Dam sites and war-industry camps founded other company towns. Since company stores tend to have a monopoly in company towns, it was not uncommon for truck systems to emerge in isolated company towns.

Typically, a company town will be isolated from neighbors and centered (figuratively, if not literally) around a large production factory such as a lumber or steel mill or an automobile plant; and the citizens of the town will either work in the factory, work in one of the smaller businesses, or be a family member of someone who does. The company may also operate parks, host cultural events such as concerts, and so on. Needless to say, when the owning company cuts back or goes out of business, the economic effect on the company town is devastating, and often fatal.

Company towns sometimes become regular public cities and towns as they grow. Other times, a town may not officially be a company town, but it may be a town where the majority of citizens are employed by a single company, thus creating a similar situation to a company town (especially in regard to the town's economy).

In the United States, it is relatively rare for places in which a single company owns all the property to be granted status as an incorporated municipality. Such wholly-owned communities are more likely unincorporated and administered by company officers rather than elected officials. However, there are incorporated municipalities that are heavily dependent upon a single company and may be considered a "company town", even though the company does not technically own the town.

See also: paternalism.

List of former company towns

See Company towns for an unannotated list of articles

List of present company towns

Reference

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