As we end a Year, a Reflection
on the Passing of a Different Age in Business
I wrote this in 2004 Individuals in Business
Twomey Company Smithshire IL, icon to a region.
Hold on to old values, but embrace the future
I grew up in the shadow of a grain elevator, built by Victor Twomey in the 1950's. It stood out as the dominating landmark for miles in our Western Illinois prairie. My brother in our pre-school days would see it and recognize we were near home, we were not lost. My own sons when they were small would see it on the horizon, and would know, we would soon be home. I have woken in the morning to see it looming out of the fog like a Transformer coming to life, I have waited in long lines for the opportunity to unload grain inside the elevator. I have memories of waiting in my grandfathers' trucks to haul grain to the elevator in Smitshire. Memories of raiding my Grandpa Harry's peanut can, discussing Mantle and Maris trying to reach 60 home runs in 1961 with Grandpa Glen. From a technology stand point, we have come a long ways. The age of 90 bushel flare box wagons and of two ton trucks has been replaced by tractors with wagons holding 900 bushels and semis hauling most of the harvest. Actually the iconic concrete elevator was not the model for Twomey Company's expansion since the 1960's. In the agribusiness community Twomey's became known for "flat-grain storage", long metal buildings filled by trucks and conveyor belts. Times change. If you want to be a part of the future, you can not live in the past; take your valuable lessons and move forward.
Victor Twomey died in 1963 and his business became the family business. John the oldest son in partnership with his brothers and sisters have taken Twomey Company in Smithshire and expanded it into Twomey Company of Western Illinois. In 2004, I tried to tell the story of 1950/1960 style of business in Smithshire in Individuals in Business. I believe you will enjoy it. The Twomey family sold their company to Consolidated Grain and Barge this Fall. So the era of "Individuals in Business" has moved into a new age. I have added this note to Elmwood Tales because the Twomey Company and the family's contributions to Warren and Henderson Counties offer some great lessons for Elmwood. Even as the Twomey family adapted to meet the future they still maintained values and honored tradition.
In Elmwood it is a time to look to the future and realize we have a place in it. In fact we are on the front edge of a trend. Our story is yet to be written, but I can tell one about Victor Twomey. Ole Vic as he was called, to differentiate him from his son young Vic, had a great faith in people. He trusted them and they believed in him. The Twomey Company story, in 1945 a businessman bought a small grain and feed business, one like a thousand others across the rural Midwest. After a fire, he built one tall concrete elevator. In a little dink town in Western Illinois one of our regions most successful businesses grew after the building of that grain elevator. (I would tell you Smithshire's nick name, but it is inappropriate to my writings' family friendly language.) Twomey Company responded to a growth in yields and changes in technology, they embraced the realities of the future and profited from it. Smithshire may not be much, but the land around Smithshire is one great place to farm. In consequence, one great place to start and run a business built on farming. Victor Twomey built a great foundation on which his family created an ever-growing business. He spent much of his time before building his great elevator (actually not so large by Kansas standards or in comparison to river terminals) talking to the people who would be his customers. He always sought their opinion, listened to what they thought. He built a reservoir of good will and made everyone feel like they were a part of his venture, but he alone took all the risk. If you want to build a great community, what we would call a social network today, you have to create a great dialog. Often as Twomey's grew I would encounter people involved in farming or agribusiness, they would ask me my opinion of doing business with Twomey Company. I always had one answer, they'll be fair. Whether you were a customer, employee, or partner in some venture, you could depend on Twomey's treating you fairly. During all the change and the demands to keep up with the times, the Twomey family never lost the value of being fair. The Twomey family, now an established foundation, have been great supporters of their community. As the company grew it became not just Roseville and Smithshire, but includes many communities. The Twomey family embraced change, recognized the realities of the future, and always retained the human values that made their communities, a better community.
So I made this story, an Elmwood Tale, hoping we learn from the Twomey Company and Smithshire. We also need to embrace the future. Elmwood has something to build on, even if it seems we are just like a thousand other small Midwestern towns. A good lesson to reflect upon, as we end this year.
The sketch image of the elevator is iconic to those who live in Warren and Henderson Counties. The image a part of Twomey Company's business logo usually accompanied by the company slogan “Our country was developed by individuals in business, let us keep it that way.”
I wrote this a while back Individuals in Business
Small Town - John Mellencamp