Keeping the Country at Work
by PAUL G. HOFFMAN
How many jobs will be needed to provide abundant peacetime employment? There is no exact answer; but there is general agreement among economists and statisticians that an employment level, in the immediate post-war period, of between 53 and 56 million jobs, not counting those in the armed services, will be necessary. That would mean 7 to 10 million new jobs, over and above the 46 million available in 1940.
Now before output can be increased sufficiently to provide one new job, someone has to have an idea, a plan, capital, plus the willingness to risk that capital, and the necessary skill in production or distribution, or both, to translate all these factors into a program of action.
To create the 7 to 10 million new peacetime jobs needed will require hundreds of thousands of ideas, billions in risk capital, and a vast amount of forwardlooking courage. These new jobs can be created only through an increase in our national output of goods and services to a level 30 per cent to 45 per cent above that of 1940. That means bold expansion, not cautious temporizing. Stated in terms of 1943 prices, it means we must achieve a gross output of from 155 billion dollars to 170 billion dollars.
Is such a goal fantastic? To some people, yes. I was told not long ago that discussion of a post-war output of 155 billion dollars to 170 billion dollars was a gross fraud on the public. The suggestion was made that we take instead the “realistic” goal of 120 billion dollars. Actually, 120 billion dollars at 1943 prices would be about 95 billion dollars at 1940 prices, which was approximately our gross output for 1940. This “realist” didn’t say what we should do with the 12 to 15 million people who would be unemployed with output at that level, nor did he shed any light on how we could meet the 30-billion-dollar Federal, state, and local tax bill with which we shall be faced in the post-war period. He just said we had to be realistic.
Speaking for myself, I don’t think it is realistic to take a goal which would involve us in Federal deficits that would make those of the 1930’s look like small change. Nor do I think it is realistic to give heed to a gospel of despair and yield up our free economy by default. On the contrary, I think it the quintessence of horse sense to accept and strive for a goal high enough to meet our social and fiscal needs. Anything short of that will, I fear, prove tragic.
The fact that a goal in output of 155 billion dollars to 170 billion dollars is needed in the post-war period does not mean, of course, that it is attainable. No one can guarantee it. However, it is the studied opinion of the Committee for Economic Development that this goal can be reached, and perhaps exceeded, in the first post-war decade — provided America’s two million employers are ready, when the green light is given for civilian production, with bold, smart plans; and provided further that the post-war economic climate is favorable both to the expansion of present businesses and to the starting of a vast number of new businesses.
One fact we should recognize is that most of these new enterprises, and indeed most of the expansion of our present enterprises, must come in the field of distribution. Manufacturing has never provided more than a fourth of the total jobs in peacetime. It is the trades and services which hold the greatest promise for the attainment of new levels of post-war employment.
People’s hopes and fears about freedom and security center in the common denominator of jobs. Three years ago the Committee for Economic Development was organized as a private non-political and non-profit organization of businessmen devoted to the single purpose of encouraging and assisting in the planning for post-war business expansion and more jobs.
The Field Development Division of CED early reached two decisions: that the task called for personal selling activities on the part of business leaders, and that it was essential that the program be carried out community by community. In the late fall of 1942 we asked the businessmen and community leaders of three cities to act as pioneers and to help us find out how best to promote job-making. Reading, Pennsylvania, Wheeling, West Virginia, and Peoria, Illinois, organized the first three community committees for economic development.
We were not prepared for the tremendous response of community self-help and initiative which sprang up over the country when knowledge of the CED program began to spread. When CED was first organized, it was our highest hope that in time perhaps one thousand communities and some ten thousand business leaders might be interested. Within the last three years more than 2800 community CED’s have been formed, and more than 75,000 local business leaders serve as their volunteer members. One will now find a local CED in almost all towns and cities of 10,000 population and over. There are nearly two thousand CED’s in towns smaller than 10,000.
A GROUP of local businessmen and other community leaders who have formed a committee for economic development cannot create new jobs by holding meetings and making speeches. They must knuckle down and get the necessary facts. A community CED begins with a series of surveys to determine (1) local employment in 1940; (2) wartime employment; and (3) expected post-war employment based on current plans of local employers. But since no employer can fill out a check sheet intelligently until he has actually sat down and done some post-war planning, the surveys are frequently the first real spur to post-war thinking among many employers.
Once a committee has its “job budget” down in black and white, — and particularly when the budget shows a job deficit looming after victory, — then the local planning program begins to take on real individuality. Worcester, Massachusetts, for example, made the sharp discovery that present plans among its employers would leave the community with a post-war deficit of 9000 to 12,000 jobs. But in unearthing this disturbing fact, the committee also made the interesting discovery that not one of its many present-day “big businesses” started with more than $25,000 capital. They all had grown from very moderate beginnings.
“If that is the case,” reasoned local business planners, “the thing to do is find out what made these concerns grow and apply some of the same stimulant to the 300 Worcester concerns which now employ 50 people or less.” And that is precisely what Worcester is doing as the keystone of its post-war planning. The Chamber of Commerce, coöperating with the CED, has reorganized its Industrial Bureau, a permanent office which will include on its staff: —
1. A specialist in accounting and production problems.
2. A specialist in product engineering and sales. (These two experts will assist small businessmen in an advisory capacity, in solving internal problems of business management, of production, and of merchandising, and in determining credit and capital needs. They will also serve in certain outside liaison capacities to help small businessmen obtain whatever types of credit, services, materials, and personnel are found to be needed by a specific enterprise.)
3. A competent foreign-trade expert who will counsel local businesses on export problems and travel part time in foreign countries seeking out new markets and representing Worcester industries.
4. A domestic sales representative who will function as a field representative to find new markets for Worcester products within the United States.
In contrast to industrial Worcester, the little town of Bradenton, Florida, depends predominantly on agriculture for its livelihood. CED surveys showed that it, too, must expand its employment after the war. After extensive economic self-examination, Bradenton’s business leaders decided that what the town needed most, to improve its winter vegetable and citrus business, was to fly its post-war produce to Northern markets. So it has arranged to buy a “surplus” airport from the Army and has made a deal with a commercial airline to supply air freight service for Bradenton’s post-war tomatoes, lettuce, and grapefruit.
Down in Arkansas, the state-wide Economic Council is coöperating with community CED’s and other planning groups to build small industries around local raw materials or commercial needs. Among its “project specifications” issued to date have been plans and costs for small mattress factories, local wineries, softdrink bottling plants, frozen food locker plants, cheese factories, and hardwood baby furniture factories. These project specifications are drawn up by qualified experts and include detailed information: raw materials, quantities needed and sources of them; financial requirements; labor needs and costs; equipment; plant layout; potential markets; and estimated profits on various levels of operation.
HUNDREDS of American towns and villages have no manufacturing, and their only job-providing business activity is commerce — mainly retailing and service stores. “How,” they ask, “can we do post-war planning and create new jobs?”
That was one of CED’s most troublesome questions until the little town of Franklin Square, Long Island, dramatized at least one answer with its “Main Street Face-Lifting Project.” The town’s thirty-four merchants, lined up on both sides of a single shopping thoroughfare, operate typical small-town stores. Narrow doorways, inadequate display windows, nondescript signs — but lots of activity at their cash registers during wartime with earless housewives forced to concentrate their trade locally.
Despite this temporary prosperity, Franklin Square’s CED chairman was making poor headway selling post-war planning until he hit on a “visual aid” scheme. He took pictures of Main Street in all its workaday “jes’ growed up that way” appearance. Then he had an architect make a drawing of how Franklin Square would look if all the stores had Early Colonial fronts.
The merchants got the idea; and when it was demonstrated that, by going into the deal together, they could face-lift the whole shopping center for about $15 a front foot, they signed up. Aided by experts from building materials manufacturers and contractors, they now have the project blueprinted and are ready to go. Financing has been arranged. After the store fronts have been attended to, it will be natural to improve the interiors with air conditioning and all the trimmings.
Merchants in Seneca Falls and Rome, New York, Springfield and Akron, Ohio, Niles, Michigan, and Slayton, Minnesota, are investigating possibilities of doing a Franklin Square job on their stores. In Faribault, Minnesota, retailers are already in action and have their plans ready for the carpenters. And in Utah, twenty little towns are working on the necessary liaison plans with manufacturers of plate glass, hardware, and other building materials, to face-lift the shopping centers of all twenty communities in one fell swoop.
Unemployment is no respecter of persons or places. And many large cities now crammed with war work are finding that their post-war future requires even more planning attention, proportionally, than in smaller communities. Philadelphia’s CED, as an example, was rudely shaken to find, after its first employment surveys, that future job prospects were short by almost 100,000.
Remedying the situation called for some really intensive planning, and to stimulate such planning the local committee organized and conducted a series of twenty separate Industry Forums — one forum for each of Philadelphia’s basic industrial groups. At each meeting representatives from management, labor, suppliers, and others interested in a given industry group, such as leather goods or textiles, got together and examined all available data on their pre-war economic status, changes during the war, major problems of reconversion, potential new avenues of expansion, and other matters. Following each meeting an Industry Committee was formed from that particular group to continue working with the overall Philadelphia CED to plan more new jobs. As a result, new surveys show that the 100,000 job deficit has now been whittled down to around 21,000 and is still shrinking.
The table below shows results of CED surveys in a number of cities where post-war planning is making good progress. The surveys are illustrative though not necessarily “typical.” Neither should they be taken as a promise. Primarily they are one of the working tools of post-war planning.
|City||Jobs in 1940||Present Jobs||Jobs Planned for 1940||Jobs Post-war Increase over 1940|
|Fort Worth, Tex.||76,052||102,000||99,000||30.2%|
|High Point, N.C.||13,998||14,230||17,339||28.9%|
|South Bend, Ind.||27,422||41,529||37,343||36.2%|
|Sioux Falls, S.D.||11,575||12,579||15,189||31.2%|
|Salt Lake City, Utah.||64,445||81,649||78,000||21.0%|
SCATTERED about the nation, particularly along the coasts, are a number of cities which have become boom towns as a result of the mushroom growth of shipyards and aircraft plants. Some of them are facing their future with a gloomy “What can we do about it?" attitude. But others, like San Diego, California, are taking a more determined view. Since 1940, San Diego has had a 41 per cent increase in civilian population and a 97 per cent increase in military personnel. It has both shipyard and aircraft problems. Early surveys showed prospects of a potential post-war job shortage of 30,000. It was not an encouraging outlook.
But San Diego’s business leaders, represented by their very active Chamber of Commerce and their CED, believed that their increased manpower was an asset and that it could be permanently added to the community.
The Chamber of Commerce engaged the engineering firm of Day & Zimmerman to make a complete study of San Diego’s possibilities. The firm spent a full year in making the study, and the results are now on hand in a 1303-page report costing $72,000. Its recommendations range all the way from a listing of 42 new products which might be profitably produced in San Diego to suggestions for taking over the huge Defense Plant Corporation plant now occupied by Consolidated Vultee and converting it into a “factory apartment house” for use by a number of small firms.
In the meantime the local Chamber and the CED had completed their own surveys of industrial and commercial employment. Working together they reduced the expected job deficit to 7000 jobs, and local leaders are confident that they can close this final gap and start their post-war career with a far stronger and more prosperous community than they had before the war.
Another war boom city, Wichita, Kansas, has also taken its post-war bull by the horns and hopes to throw him by resorting to scientific research. A manufacturing center for Boeing B-29 Superforts, and also having plants of the Beech and Cessna Aircraft companies, Wichita has a war-swollen labor force of 52,000 people in direct war production. Surveys show that 66 per cent of these workers hope to stay in Wichita. What will they do?
Wichita business leaders believe they can find out through research what can be done with local reserves of oil, gas, minerals, ceramics, and soil. Accordingly they have raised a budget of $500,000 to form the Wichita Industrial Research Foundation at Wichita University. The search is on for new job-producing products.
There is still a lot more post-war job planning to be done. Moreover, the CED’s first tenet is that post-war planning has priority only after the day’s war work is done. The experience of Memphis, Tennessee, is an excellent “case study” of the proper relationship between producing for war and planning for peace. Local war industries were experiencing the usual difficulties of keeping workers from leaving war jobs for “more secure” peacetime jobs — until someone voiced the theory that if workers knew more about what was being done to provide good post-war jobs, they would be more willing to stay on their war jobs.
To test this view, the Memphis CED, in coöperation with the Press-Scimitar, published a series of twentysix feature articles describing the post-war plans of leading local employers. Then the same articles were reprinted in a pamphlet entitled “There Won’t Be Any Let-Down in Memphis When It’s Over.” This was backed up by the CED’s local employment surveys, which indicate plans for 36,820 post-war jobs in Memphis — a 52 per cent increase over the 24,125 jobs available in 1940.
As the results of the publicity became apparent, the Area Director of the War Manpower Commission commented: “In my opinion these articles did much to eliminate uneasiness in the minds of those presently employed as to their post-war future. Our records disclose that they had the desired effect in diminishing turnover and absenteeism in the covered establishments. ... It brought home to the worker that management is also looking to the future and making plans to continue the use of the greatly increased labor force for peacetime production that we have presently engaged in the war effort here in Memphis.”
Such planning is a very dynamic thing, and even those communities whose plans are far advanced and whose post-war employment outlook is good cannot be content to tuck their plans away until needed. They must be kept up to date. Sudden cutbacks in war orders or shift in needs from one type of war materials to another can change the entire employment outlook and conversion plans in a company or a community. On a broad front the CED is still aiming at the overall goal of 7 to 10 million new post-war jobs, and the results of planning done so far by one employer after another in community after community have greatly strengthened our confidence in their becoming a reality. The more planning we do now, the more jobs we shall have later. It is as simple — and vital — as that.