April 21, 2000
Phones in Perry began ringing early Wednesday morning after the unique Project Perry trade show was held Tuesday afternoon in the Ditch Witch training center to make builders and developers from several state areas aware of the critical need already existing here. The prospect of a building boom got the attention of everyone in the huge room. The phone calls were for more information and details on the outlook for construction needs here. Especially pleased were members of the Project Perry support team who spent the better part of the last two months putting the "trade show" together. They had no way of knowing for certain how many people would accept their invitation to attend. Would there be 100 visitors? Fifty? A mere handful? The best guess was that as many as 200 might show up. They were surprised and delighted when the crowd swelled to more than 400.
For the first hour or so, the visitors were led through. an introduction to Perry featuring a video tape documentary that is used by Charles Machine Works, Inc. to orient their new employees. Dave Woods, CMW's chief operating officer and one of the instigators of Project Perry, spoke about the company's close relationship with the town through the years, dating back to 1902 when Carl Frederick Malzahn and his wife, Anna, ailing with asthma, came to this prairie city with their six children from the chilly climate of Maple Lake, Minnesota. Carl set up a blacksmith shop, a humble beginning for what is now the internationally known Charles Machine Works, Inc., manufacturer of Ditch Witch underground construction tools. Carl's grandson, Edwin Malzahn, of course, now heads the company. CMW sprawls over the landscape on West Fir Avenue. Its phenomenal success and continued growth is the reason more houses are needed here. Many of the newly hired workers have to commute to Perry, some of them spending two hours or more each day in their cars or pickup trucks to make the round trip.
Besides the lengthy travel time, the Perry community is being deprived of the talents and attributes these people could bring here, if they didn't have I to drive out of town each evening after work. We also don't have the benefit of the sales tax they would generate as residents of Perry. The problem is, we don't have houses for them to live in. That was one of the primary reasons for the birth of Project Perry. We needed to find a way of enticing builders to help solve that matter. The committee also identified other things needed to make Perry more attractive for new residents and those already here. A comprehensive survey was launched to tap into this subject. CMW employees, the general public and high school teen-agers were asked to list their preferences in goods and services now lacking here. Housing questions played a major part in the survey.
The survey, designed by Sheri Justus, CMW human resources manager, produced a number of interesting and eye-opening results. The question then was: How do we get that information to people who can solve the problem? The trade show format was chosen and responsibilities were assigned to bring it to reality. The committee must have done their job well. Visitors here last Tuesday were for the most part bowled over by the thorough, practical way Project Perry leaders put the event together. In return, the visitors seemed eager to play a role in solving some of our problems.
The ultimate success of this unique project won't be known for several months, but the stage has been set. Phone calls that started coming in Wednesday to Cindy Rice, the single point of contact for information needed by the builders and developers, strongly indicate that the enthusiasm of the Project Perry committee has become infectious. Outsiders are singing our praises and pitching in to provide solutions that are badly needed. If you have an opportunity to share in the execution of this program, no matter how remote your part may seem, tackle it with enthusiasm and let's get about the business of making this wonderful community an even better place to live.