Wednesday, December 27, 2017 and Corporate Volunteering blimp visits Maynard. From the collection of the
Maynard Historical Society. Click on photos to enlarge
Third in a multi-part series AT THE MILL.

Back in the spring of 2014,, at one time a famous technology disruptor in the jobs search industry, moved away from Maynard, giving up on its lease of 300,000 square feet at the mill and moving 625 jobs to a smaller space in Weston. Monster had arrived for the birth of Clock Tower Place in 1998. Its growth, shrinkage and finally, abandonment contributed mightily to the arc of Clock Tower, which came to an inglorious end a year later. For such a large company, Monster was a lightly visible presence in town, sponsoring blood drives and an annual road race to benefit the Boys and Girls Club. At its peak a thousand employees showed up every day, but the company did not work as hard as it might have to be an actively participating citizen. hot air balloon
For Monster, the arc of the company's presence in Maynard roughly paralleled the company's course from a technology innovator to a technology can-it-catch-up-again. When men stand on a corner near a Home Depot, and other men drive up in pick-up trucks looking for day labor, that's a job exchange. Ditto a bulletin board covered with business cards next to the door of a diner. Put the jobs offered on paper and disseminate copies, and it's a newspaper's jobs section. Now suppose the match-ups are computerized. Potential employers post and search. Potential employees search and post. Inclusion and exclusion criteria filter the searches. Voila, Monster!

Initially, Monster owned the niche. It was the first public job search on the Internet, first public resume database in the world, and the first to have job search and job alerts. The company went public, i.e., sold shares on a stock exchange, in December 1996. Valuation peaked in 2000 at $8.5 billion.

Much was written about Monster’s decline. What went wrong? From Woody Allen, in the movie Annie Hall: "A relationship, I think, is like a shark. You know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark." Monster was a dead shark. It was too late to social media, to apps, to niches, to better search engines. These days, CareerBuilder. Indeed, Glassdoor and LinkedIn dominate the generalist jobs market, while DICE, TheLadders, USAJobs and LookSharp service niches. In 2016, what remained of Monster was purchased for only $426 million. The company continues to downsize. This fall the monster itself was re-imaged as large, purple and hairy, with glowing eyes, but it is in no way clear that this will reverse the trend.  

The new (2017) Monster is large, furry and purple. Interestingly, this monster,
the old Monster and Gossamer (below) have  a thumb and three fingers on
each hand. It's an American animation thing dating back to the 1920s.

Much like Monster, most of the companies in the mill, and for that matter, the owners and operators of Mill and Main, are near-invisible to the inhabitants of the town. One exception is Battle Road Brew House, which has involved itself in Octoberfest, the veterans-support pub crawl and a 5K road race. The other tenants, the ones whose employees step out for meals and shopping in Maynard’s stores, are the economic engine helping this town prosper. Can they do more than just shop? Yes!

Monster's monster has more than a
passing resemblance to Gossamer,
from the Bugs Bunny years.
Corporate volunteer programs are a means of committing to a cause or a community. Especially in a small town, a company can become a useful, visible presence that improves quality of life. And, as these days, more people are looking to live near where they work, contributing to the community benefits the company, as a vibrant community makes it easier to recruit and keep employees. Research clearly shows that a well-organized company volunteer program lowers employee turnover, more than paying for any outlay the company makes.    

How to make this work? Corporate leadership needs to ask employees what they believe or are already involved in as volunteer activities. From this, companies may decide to officially sponsor specific activities, or else have an action plan that acts as a clearing house for company approval of ideas that employees want to pursue. Paid time off and matching funding are useful ways to commit. Lastly, companies need to close the loop – get reports on what employees are volunteering for, and share those stories within the company. And it won’t hurt to coordinate public relations publicity with the town and the local media.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Maynard in Boston Globe 1909

Second in a multi-part series AT THE MILL

Edmin J. Park, reporter for The Boston Daily Globe, must have been a phenomenally fast typist, because his May 13, 1909 opus titled “Maynard’s Fate Hangs on Tariff” clocked in at 2,900 words, with a finishing note that the next day’s column in this series will be from Canton. I have a hard time with 700 words once a week, and this guy was doing four times that, daily.

Park’s title referred to the fact that Congress was in the process of changing tariff law. Twelve years earlier, a loosening of tariffs on imported woolen cloth and clothing has contributed to the bankruptcy of Maynard’s mill, and also Damon family owned mill on the road toward Concord. The American Woolen Company ended up owning both, and prospered greatly when the tariffs were reinstalled. What Park was referring to in his title was the fact that Congress had just passed the Payne-Aldrich Tariff Act, which softened some tariffs, but left the protective tariff on woolen goods unaffected. President Taft was expected to sign the bill into law.

New Village houses, 1902. Click on photos to enlarge. Photo
courtesy of Maynard Historical Society.
The article described in detail the addition of mill-owned housing called New Village – about 300 residences built on streets named after Presidents. Park lauded the factory owners for eschewing row housing in favor of individual buildings, each with its own greenspace. New Village was also called out for having a sewer system – something the rest of Maynard would not begin to have until 1929.

Maynard was described as very much a one industry town, with more than half the men plus many of the women and children working in the woolen mill. Park added that the mill was also generating electricity, both for its own use, and selling to Maynard and South Acton to power street lights. Not mentioned in the article, but it is likely that power – and lights – stopped at a specified hour, as people were expected to be home already. Back in Amory Maynard’s day, the mill rang a curfew bell at 9:00 p.m. Mill workers were warned they would lose their jobs if they were found on the streets after the bell tolled.

Park noted that a large number of immigrants from Finland were employed at the mill, and that Finns made up fully one third of the population of the town. He described the Finns as “somewhat clannish,” but also as good citizens, active in town affairs, having their own church, and and a brass band that performed concerts.

Park added that the Town of Maynard had just voted itself “no-license” (no sale of alcohol) by a vote of 487 to 408. Prior to national Prohibition (1919-1932), individual towns were voting themselves wet or dry. Earlier that year Marlborough and then Hudson had voted themselves dry, so there was a concern that out-of-towners would be descending on Maynard’s bars and pool halls en masse. No-license did not stick. Maynard voted itself wet the next year and the four years after that. Maynard voted dry in 1915, but by then Marlborough had gone back to wet.

Riverside Cooperative Building, corner of Nason and Summer Streets.
Major fire, January 30, 1936. Photo courtesy Maynard Historical Society.
Several paragraphs describe the rise of the cooperative store movement in Maynard. Way back in 1875 a group of employees at the mill called themselves the Sovereigns of Industry. They decided to start buying groceries and provisions wholesale, in Boston, rather from the local stores. Buying trips evolved into having their own store. In time, this cooperative effort was incorporated as the Riverside Cooperative Association, with its own building open to the general public who could become members for an annual fee, and become stockholders for a higher fee. The building was at the corner of Summer and Nason Streets. The Co-op burned in January 1936. The site now hosts a brick building that had been erected for the Knights of Columbus.

The newspaper concludes with a mention that a man did not have to be from a family of wealth or long-time residence to be elected to office. By example, he named one William Jones, Chairman of the Board of Selectmen, who in his day job was a motorman on the Maynard-based trolley that served Maynard and neighboring towns.

Banner of the newspaper in 1877. Typeface similar to present-day Boston Globe.

The Boston Daily Globe (1872-1960) was the earlier name of The Boston Globe. After troubling early years, the paper firmed up to become one of Boston’s larger newspapers. Competitors were The Boston Post (1831-1956) and the Boston Herald (1846-present). The Globe went public in 1973, was bought by The New York Times in 1993 for $1.1 billion dollars, was sold to John Henry by the Times in 2013 for $70 million dollars. He also owns other stuff. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Incredible Shrinking Millpond

First in a multi-part series AT THE MILL. According to one account the millpond was 18.2 acres and the Ben Smith impoundment between the dam and White Pond Road bridge was 18.8 acres. 

Then genius of Amory Maynard was to separate the mill from the dam. By doing so, a large dam could be constructed upstream from where a small dam was, at Mill Street, and the new woolen mill located downstream. This separation created a larger vertical drop. And as water power is created by a combination of volume and vertical drop, more power. By creating the Ben Smith Dam, connecting canal, mill pond, and securing water rights upriver, including to Boone Pond and Fort Meadow Pond, the mill was able to operate year-round with a volume of 100 cubic feet per second, equivalent to 50,000 gallons per minute, and a vertical drop of close to twenty feet.

Aerial view drawing of the center of Maynard, MA (1879), showing the
mill pond much larger then compared to today. Click on photos to enlarge.
Canal enters pond from left. Water exits under mill to river on right.
Power production was on the order of 50 horsepower. Not much, which is why not too long after the railroad reached Assabet Village the mill was adding coal-fired steam engines. By 1879, the year the aerial view image of the center of Maynard was published, the mill complex had grown to six major buildings and two smokestacks. Water was still essential for the steam engines, and to wash the raw wool and the finished cloth after the dyeing process.

The aerial view shows a much larger mill pond than we have now. Size was not essential to maintain an adequate water reserve, as the canal connected the mill pond to the much larger body of water held back by the Ben Smith Dam. Through the years, various projects nibbled away at the pond. The three large mill buildings fronting the pond are partially over the water, and actually required draining the pond in 1916-18 during construction of the last one. When this was taking place a trestle and flume (large wooden pipe) crossed the drained pond from the west side. This was to provide water necessary to wash and process the wool. The trestle had still been relatively intact during a partial pond draining back in 1977. Remnants of the trestle can be seen protruding above the water’s surface when the pond level drops in summer.

Trestle across the millpond, 1977. The trestle was built in 1916 when the
pond was drained for construction of Building 1. It had held a flume that
conveyed water to the mill. Courtesy Maynard Historical Society.
West of Sudbury Road, land was filled in for construction of the school that was associated with Saint Bridget Parish. A large part of the south side of the pond was filled in to create the parking lot that extends to Building 5 (Stratus Technologies and Battle Road Brewery). Land was created on the north side for the parking lot that serves as the site for the Maynard Farmers’ Market. Before the 2008 recession, Wellesley Management, the past owner/operator of the mill complex, had proposed to build an office building on the south side, and either a multi-level parking garage for more than 1,000 cars, or else fill in much more of the pond for parking. This did not come to pass, but clarified that the owners of the mill own the pond. One restriction on the pond owners is that water cannot be diverted from the river to the millpond when volume in the river drops below 39 cubic feet per second.

Mill pond partially iced over, circa 1930. Note that the pond is much larger
than it is today, and there are no parking lots. Estimated date from fact that
Riverside CO-OP building (burned Jan 1936) is in photo.
The amount of water in the pond is controlled at both ends, a gatehouse on the canal for flow in, and a similar gate near the end of Building 3 for flow out. This past summer, Mill & Main had some problems with the pond mysteriously filling to overflowing despite the summer drought and despite periodically letting water out. Problem solved when water was observed entering at the gatehouse, with an estimated round-the-clock inflow of 10,000 gallons per minute. Scuba divers were hired. Turns out that a tree stump had become wedged in the opening, preventing the gate from closing completely.

Back in the day of looser regulations and liabilities, the mill pond provided recreational opportunities for residents of Maynard. People fished, boated and swam. The pond, fed by water from the river, was far cleaner than the river downstream of the mill’s discharges. But not entirely clean, as upriver, Hudson, Stow and other towns were discharging their own mill wastes. Even so, an ice house was filled with ice every winter. Ice skating took place, with the occasional fall-through, and either rescue or fatality.