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  • 2018-06-25 11:34:20
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Title Title
Twentieth-century phenomenon the company town is resurrected in Silicon Valley  Twentieth-century 'company town' returns to Silicon Valley
Summary Summary
In California's tech heartlands, the all-embracing company town is returning – but not without criticism  In California's tech heartlands, the all-embracing company town seems to have reappeared – but some are worried
Highlights Highlights
The company town seemed to have become a thing of the past , Facebook is building 1,500 units in Palo Alto, California , Living in company housing can have drawbacks The company town seemed to have become a thing of the past , Facebook is building 1,500 units in Palo Alto, California , Living in company housing can have drawbacks
Content Content
<strong>East Tilbury in Essex, England, is a living museum of a phenomenon common on both sides of the Atlantic in the 20th century: the company town. Settlements built or largely taken over by a single company appeared to have gone the way of the job for life. But the needs of Silicon Valley might be reviving the model.</strong> <strong>East Tilbury in Essex, England, is a living museum of a phenomenon common on both sides of the Atlantic in the 20th century: the company town. Settlements built or largely taken over by a single company appeared to have gone the way of the job for life. But the needs of Silicon Valley might be reviving the model.</strong>
The “<a href="https://www.citylab.com/design/2017/07/what-facebook-can-learn-from-company-towns/533832/">quasi-public municipalities</a>” of a hundred years ago (<em>CityLab</em>) were owned wholly or largely by a single corporation, providing housing and facilities for their workers. Hundreds dotted the United States and Europe, built by companies as disparate as <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hershey_Company">Hershey’s</a>, the chocolate manufacturer, (of Hershey, Pennsylvania) and soap-makers the Lever Brothers (which founded <a href="http://portsunlightvillage.com/about/">Port Sunlight</a>, near Liverpool, England). The “<a href="https://www.citylab.com/design/2017/07/what-facebook-can-learn-from-company-towns/533832/">quasi-public municipalities</a>” of a hundred years ago (<em>CityLab</em>) were owned wholly or largely by a single corporation, providing housing and facilities for their workers. Hundreds dotted the United States and Europe, built by companies as disparate as <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hershey_Company">Hershey’s</a>, the chocolate manufacturer, (of Hershey, Pennsylvania) and soap-makers the Lever Brothers (which founded <a href="http://portsunlightvillage.com/about/">Port Sunlight</a>, near Liverpool, England).
But today the company town has all but disappeared from traditional manufacturing industries. Visit a town like <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Tilbury">East Tilbury</a>, and you’re confronted with a former manufacturing utopia that was unable to resist postindustrial decline.  But today the company town has all but disappeared from traditional manufacturing industries. Visit a town like <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Tilbury">East Tilbury</a>, and you’re confronted with a former manufacturing utopia that was unable to resist the economics of cheap production in distant locations.
East Tilbury, a village since Saxon times, was adopted, virtually absorbed, by the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bata_Shoes">Bata Shoe Company</a> to house its workers in the 1930s. Bata was at one point one of the largest shoemakers in the world, its footwear manufactured in dozens of close to identical company towns all modelled on its Czech headquarters of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zl%C3%ADn">Zlín</a>. The company provided almost everything for its workers and their families, from housing to schooling to entertainment. East Tilbury, a village since Saxon times, was adopted, virtually absorbed, by the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bata_Shoes">Bata Shoe Company</a> to house its workers in the 1930s. Bata was at one point one of the largest shoemakers in the world, its footwear manufactured in dozens of close to identical company towns all modelled on its Czech headquarters of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zl%C3%ADn">Zlín</a>. The company provided almost everything for its workers and their families, from housing to schooling to entertainment.
At its peak in the 1950s, 3,000 people worked for Bata in East Tilbury. But like company towns everywhere in the West, it suffered progressive decline. Bata closed the last of its East Tilbury factories in 2005. At its peak in the 1950s, 3,000 people worked for Bata in East Tilbury. But like company towns everywhere in the West, it suffered progressive decline. Bata closed the last of its East Tilbury factories in 2005.
Around the mid-20th century, the emergence of the consumer car, and mass transit more generally, made it unnecessary for workers to live within walking distance of their workplace, says <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/07/business/07shelf.html">Hardy Green, author of <em>The Company Town</em></a>. Later, companies like Bata stopped being able to afford to hire labor in the West anyway, and moved production to countries where costs were lower. Around the mid-20th century, the emergence of the consumer car, and mass transit more generally, made it unnecessary for workers to live within walking distance of their workplace, says <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/07/business/07shelf.html">Hardy Green, author of <em>The Company Town</em></a>. Later, companies like Bata stopped being able to afford to hire labor in the West anyway, and moved production to countries where costs were lower.
Mike Pinion grew up in East Tilbury. He joined Bata when he left school, and worked for the company until it definitively left England, in 2005. “We saw it coming,” he says. Bata moved its manufacturing to Malaysia, where labor costs are around a quarter of what they are in England. One of his last jobs for Bata was installing the equipment he had worked on in the Malaysian factories. Mike Pinion grew up in East Tilbury. He joined Bata when he left school, and worked for the company until it definitively left England, in 2005. “We saw it coming,” he says. Bata moved its manufacturing to Malaysia, where labor costs are around a quarter of what they are in England. One of his last jobs for Bata was installing the equipment he had worked on in the Malaysian factories.
<em>running thought: is the thesis that the disappearance of company towns is a good thing or a bad thing? or just a thing? if so, what is the [unassertion] consequence for the workers? AL</em>  
<h2>The company town resurrected</h2>  <h2>Company town resurrected</h2>
For a time, the company town appeared a curious relic of the past. But in Silicon Valley, where an abundance of qualified and well-paid engineers desperately need homes, the model appears to have made a comeback. For a time, the company town appeared a curious relic of the past. But in Silicon Valley, where an abundance of qualified and well-paid engineers desperately need homes, the model appears to have made a comeback.
Californian tech companies have long sought to attract highly prized employees with ever-more lavish amenities. Free meals, transport, yoga classes, gym memberships, laundry – all are <a href="https://www.aol.com/2011/10/26/awesome-workplaces-in-silicon-valley-amenities-in-the-office-i/?guccounter=1">common</a> (<em>AOL</em>) for engineers and designers at top Silicon Valley firms. But as commutable accommodation becomes harder to find, some are branching out to provide housing, too. Californian tech companies have long sought to attract highly prized employees with ever-more lavish amenities. Free meals, transport, yoga classes, gym memberships, laundry – all are <a href="https://www.aol.com/2011/10/26/awesome-workplaces-in-silicon-valley-amenities-in-the-office-i/?guccounter=1">common</a> (<em>AOL</em>) for engineers and designers at top Silicon Valley firms. But as commutable accommodation becomes harder to find, some are branching out to provide housing, too.
Green says that tech companies' decision to start housing their workers is driven by necessity. Green says that tech companies' decision to start housing their workers is driven by necessity.
“Housing costs in Silicon Valley and the Bay Area have skyrocketed. If tech companies want to attract skilled workers they may have no choice but to build good, affordable housing for these workers, who of course have lots of alternatives.” “Housing costs in Silicon Valley and the Bay Area have skyrocketed. If tech companies want to attract skilled workers they may have no choice but to build good, affordable housing for these workers, who of course have lots of alternatives.”
Facebook, for instance, is <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/21/technology/facebook-zucktown-willow-village.html">building</a> (<em>New York Times</em>) 1,500 housing units, mostly aimed at its employees, in its new Willow Village campus in Palo Alto. Last December, Google <a href="https://www.mercurynews.com/2017/12/12/googles-massive-housing-and-office-plan-poised-for-approval/">signed</a> (<em>Mercury News</em>) an agreement with the city of Mountain View, where it is headquartered, to build close to 10,000 homes and apartments. Needless to say, both developments will be situated conveniently close to Facebook and Google’s offices. Facebook, for instance, is <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/21/technology/facebook-zucktown-willow-village.html">building</a> (<em>New York Times</em>) 1,500 housing units, mostly aimed at its employees, in its new Willow Village campus in Palo Alto. Last December, Google <a href="https://www.mercurynews.com/2017/12/12/googles-massive-housing-and-office-plan-poised-for-approval/">signed</a> (<em>Mercury News</em>) an agreement with the city of Mountain View, where it is headquartered, to build close to 10,000 homes and apartments. Needless to say, both developments will be situated conveniently close to Facebook and Google’s offices.
The office-sharing startup WeWork, for its part, is expanding with <a href="https://www.gq.com/story/inside-welive">WeLive</a>, providing studios and communal areas in the same building as WeWork office space. As one resident <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jun/18/digital-nomad-homeless-tech-work">puts it</a>: “You just roll out of bed, go down the elevator and get to work.” Not unlike the company towns of the last century: Mike Pinion remembers choosing to work at Bata in no small part because he could walk to work. The office-sharing startup WeWork, for its part, is expanding with <a href="https://www.gq.com/story/inside-welive">WeLive</a>, providing studios and communal areas in the same building as WeWork office space. As one resident <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jun/18/digital-nomad-homeless-tech-work">puts it</a>: “You just roll out of bed, go down the elevator and get to work.” Not unlike the company towns of the last century: Mike Pinion remembers choosing to work at Bata in no small part because he could walk to work.
<h2>Mobile workers</h2> <blockquote>You're not working eight hours a day any more ... every part of your life is part of work. - Razvan Zamfira</blockquote>
There are undoubtedly differences, as <a href="https://www.parliament.uk/biographies/commons/stephen-metcalfe/4092">Stephen Metcalfe, the British MP</a> who represents East Tilbury, points out to <em>WikiTribune</em>. Well-paid tech workers “have huge amounts of choice,” he says, contrasting with his constituents who used to work for Bata. There are undoubtedly differences, as <a href="https://www.parliament.uk/biographies/commons/stephen-metcalfe/4092">Stephen Metcalfe, the British MP</a> who represents East Tilbury, points out to <em>WikiTribune</em>. Well-paid tech workers “have huge amounts of choice,” he says, contrasting with his constituents who used to work for Bata.
Metcalfe argues that tech workers tend to be in “high paid jobs and in high demand jobs”. It is “in the employer’s interest to make sure their staff stays with them,” if necessary by providing them with amenities, he says. Metcalfe argues that tech workers tend to be in “high paid jobs and in high demand jobs”. It is “in the employer’s interest to make sure their staff stays with them,” if necessary by providing them with amenities, he says.
Another side effect is that tech companies which provide housing can also have the additional benefit of helping incubate innovation in an industry heavily reliant on it, says Razvan Zamfira, a co-author of <em>The Re-birth of the Company Town</em>. Another side effect is that tech companies which provide housing can also have the additional benefit of helping incubate innovation in an industry heavily reliant on it, says Razvan Zamfira, a co-author of <em>The Re-birth of the Company Town</em>.
“If you create this vibrant urban environment where you start to attract people that don't only come from your company but come for the startups that grow around you, then you create new coalitions between different individuals and different ideas,” Zamfira says. “If you create this vibrant urban environment where you start to attract people that don't only come from your company but come for the startups that grow around you, then you create new coalitions between different individuals and different ideas,” Zamfira says.
<h2>Critics fear erosion of work-life balance</h2> <h2>Critics fear erosion of work-life balance</h2>
Naturally, when your employer is your landlord, and possibly providing you with transport, food, and other amenities too, the lines between work and time off become blurred. Naturally, when your employer is your landlord, and possibly providing you with transport, food, and other amenities too, the lines between work and time off become blurred.
“You can work from home, you can work in your bus, you can work in the public space that's also in the campus designed by Google. So you're not working eight hours a day any more. Basically every part of your life is part of work,” says Zamfira. “You can work from home, you can work in your bus, you can work in the public space that's also in the campus designed by Google. So you're not working eight hours a day any more. Basically every part of your life is part of work,” says Zamfira.
To some, this is an unwelcome trend. “If your employer is also your landlord and maybe even your social-services provider, an employee may be thankful—or may have multiple reasons to be unhappy,” Green argues.  To some, this is an unwelcome trend. “If your employer is also your landlord and maybe even your social-services provider, an employee may be thankful or may have multiple reasons to be unhappy,” Green argues.
A Facebook spokesman provided a list of local and legislative measures he says Facebook supports, including efforts to provide housing at below market rates in Menlo Park.  A Facebook spokesman's response to request for comment was to provide a list of local and legislative measures he says Facebook supports, including efforts to provide housing at below market rates in Menlo Park.
The Facebook spokesman said: “On July 7, 2017, Facebook announced our next phase of expansion with the Willow Village, which will bring community benefits such as new affordable housing and retail to the Belle Haven neighborhood of Menlo Park.  The Willow Village will include 1500 units of housing with 15% offered below market rate.” The Facebook spokesman said: “On July 7, 2017, Facebook announced our next phase of expansion with the Willow Village, which will bring community benefits such as new affordable housing and retail to the Belle Haven neighborhood of Menlo Park.  The Willow Village will include 1500 units of housing with 15% offered below market rate.”
  <ul>
<em>WikiTribune</em> approached Google for comment, but at the time of publishing had not received any response. WeWork declined to comment for this story.   <li><em>WikiTribune</em> approached Google for comment, but at the time of publishing had not received any response. WeWork declined to comment for this story.</li>
  </ul>
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Business, Technology, United Kingdom, United States, Business Business, Technology, United Kingdom, United States, Business
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Bata, company town, East Tilbury, essex, industrial decline, News, Silicon Valley, Technology Bata, company town, East Tilbury, essex, industrial decline, News, Silicon Valley, Technology
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