A well-known Greek proverb states, “Eat and drink with your relatives; do business with strangers.” While most consider this good advice, my fellow Mortonites would strongly disagree. In Morton, family-owned businesses are plentiful and prominent. Their tradition and longevity are something to be celebrated and replicated. And younger generations are actually eager to learn the ropes from their parents.
I was thrilled to find this out about Morton. Helping local people start their own companies and nurturing a local, entrepreneurial culture is a core goal for many economic development organizations, including ours. Why? Locally-owned businesses collectively drive most economies. Family-owned businesses account for 78 percent of all new jobs created and 60 percent of our national employment. They are much more likely to stay and grow in a smaller community than a company with headquarters-and decision-makers-living somewhere else. Most economic development organizations care about creating good-paying jobs that will stay in their community. Cultivating family-owned and operated businesses is a great way to reach that goal.
In Morton, the Baums, Brakers, Aupperles, Zobrists, Kuhls and Rockes are just a few of the well-known families running businesses founded by past generations. These companies alone employ hundreds and, most importantly, are dedicated to staying and growing their businesses in Morton. Otto Baum started a masonry company bearing his name in 1933, and that same company is now led by his grandson, Terry. J.S. Rocke built his first firebrick oven smokehouse in 1937. His grandson, Jon, now runs the business, Smithfield RMH Foods. Brad and Tim Braker carry on the masonry business started by their dad, Joe, in 1965. And the list continues.
Why has Morton been successful at nurturing these family-owned businesses through multiple generations? Family Business magazine recently discussed four strategies for family business longevity, which include avoiding big cities and keeping the business in the family. Maybe Morton’s faith-based environment provides the right support system for families, allowing family members to work together more amicably. Maybe it is our small, close-knit networks and loyalty towards local buying. Or maybe we have just been extremely lucky.
Whether culture or luck, without our family-owned businesses, Morton simply wouldn’t be Morton. And so, while the Greeks may disagree, we Mortonites will continue to do business with our families and reap the benefits for many generations to come. iBi