When we first mentioned the idea of opening a business in upstate NY, the very question asked by a local was:
“Are you sure you want to do that?”
‘Why?” we asked.
“The Mohawk Valley formula,” he said.
“What is that?”
“Open a business here and you will see.”
How could we not take such an ominous proclamation seriously?
Of course, we went immediately home and Googled it.
In the early part of the 1900s, the Mohawk Valley was still predominantly an agrarian economy, but times were changing. By the late 1930’s a handful of manufacturing companies had moved into the area, the largest of which was Remington Rand. This typewriter manufacturer introduced many of these workers and their families to the industrial age.
In 1936, Remington Rand employed thousands of workers along the Mohawk River Valley. The AFL had been trying to infiltrate the factories for the previous two years, and with little progress being made called for an employee strike.
Remington Rand responded to the strike threat by devising what would become known as The Mohawk Valley Formula—a battle plan for industrial war. Using propaganda, psychological manipulation and deceit, Remington sought to undermine the democratic process.
Some of the more egregious tactics included encouraging banks to call on debts and foreclose on family properties, paying landlords to increase rents on striking union members, and buying the services of local politicians and policemen to intimidate workers and their families.
Remington even went as far as to hire men and women to pose as religious missionaries so that they could enter the family homes and convince family members that it was an ungodly act for the family breadwinner to shirk his obligations to provide for the family.
It wasn’t until 1940 that the AFL finally claimed victory, but during these 4 years, the small rural populations from which their employees were drawn may have been permanently changed. The willingness to “help thy neighbor” that is so typical of rural agricultural communities had been replaced by a level of distrust in anyone who suggested that such a thing as “the common good” existed.
As the local who piqued our curiosity alluded, the potential ramifications of the Mohawk Valley Formula, perhaps amplified as it passed down through generations , still exists in these parts and is the explanation for why town and villages in upstate NY have been on a downward slide since the mid-20th century.
Of course, this is all the stuff of lore.
We started Beekman 1802 in Sharon Springs because the recession really left us no choice lest we decided to walk away from the farm altogether.
But the tacit warning became a very fundamental part of our business. In order to succeed—for any new business to succeed and grow—requires the contributions of many.
It is important, as much as possible, to understand the history of the people that you bring into the fold. The baggage, the agendas, the aspirations, the dreams, the things that we each carry with us from where we’ve been determine where we will go.
Have you started a small business? Please share your secret to success in the comments section below