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Skagit River Journal

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Noel V. Bourasaw, editor (bullet) 810 Central Ave., Sedro-Woolley, Washington, 98284
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$300,000 Raised by Local Citizens;
Chamber of Commerce committee in five weeks
gets options on 20 homes, 50 lots for new site,
sells $300,000 in bonds

Extra! Edition, Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times, Aug. 11, 1953
Caption from the 1953 newspaper: "Here is one of the big gears and drums used on the government special winch shown above. The gear is the same one being poured in the Foundry picture on the opposite page. Members of the Chamber of Commerce committee couldn't reach the top of the gear but they were all smiles because they had just reached their goal to have the new Skagit plant built here. Shown in the picture are, left to right, Frank Evans [Courier-Times], L.E. Gruver, George Hammer, Stanley Nelson and Sig Berglund.

      When the announcement was made, early in July that the Skagit Steel & Iron Works of Sedro-Woolley had received a multi-million dollar contract from the United States Army to make ammunition, there seemed only a fair prospect that the new plant would be located in Sedro-Woolley.
      The Skagit Steel & Iron Works, management in considering sites that might be available, believed it impossible to obtain the land north and west of the present plant site, on account of the estimated cost of some $150,000, while other sites could be obtained for much less.
      A farm tract between Burlington and Anacortes was given consideration, and Bellingham had two sites to offer that could be obtained at much less cost, and which offered splendid facilities for the new plant. Seattle also had a fine site, in the buildings at the Sand Point naval Air base, and Everett also had a fine site to offer. After the big contract was publicized, practically every community from Seattle to Bellingham came forward with a proposed site for the new plant. his well could have been the beginning of the Sedro-Woolley Rotary Club's legendary philanthropy, as members of the club rallied to the cause.
      The Courier-Times publisher [Frank Evans] informed the Skagit Steel & Iron Works management that an effort would be made to keep the new plant in Skagit county, and in Sedro-Woolley if possible. A committee including Frank Evans, Sig Berglund [Ford Dealer], W.A. McLean [Bingham Bank and Skagit Steel], Jess Sapp [Insurance] and A. [Shorty] Pfannenstiel [Coast-to-Coast store], met at once with S.S. McIntyre, and promised to raise up to $100,000, if necessary to help buy the property adjoining the present steel plant, to make up the difference in cost between the purchase of these 50 lots and some 20 houses on Borseth, Waldron and Moore [now part of Hwy 20] streets needed to square the present property. [Sid McIntyre was the president of Skagit Steel and the son of the patriarch of the family, David G. McIntyre.]
      Later a meeting was held at the Berglund [Ford] garage [now the Sedro-Woolley Museum on Murdock street]. and other meetings took place with the Skagit Steel & Iron Works management. Then the Chamber of Commerce committee started work soliciting options on the property wanted. Attorney A. H. Ward [father of John Ward] worked out a plan to use the Sedro-Woolley Development Co., a corporation originally organized to finance the Hall Machine & Iron Works, as the agency to which the property options could be made. [Hall stood where the eastern half of Market Place foods store on State street is today.]

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      After the first week, the bulk of the work of obtaining the options was done by Sig Berglund, Stanley Nelson [Chevrolet], George Hammer [Oliver-Hammer], and L.E. Gruver [Mt. Baker Hardware]. These men have spent only a short time at their places of business during the past five weeks, working day and night, selling the property owners on the idea of signing options, and soliciting funds.
      In some cases, property was purchased outright; in others, the home owner agreed to give up his land, and the committee agreed to buy a new site, and move his house onto it, and set it up on a foundation, and install water and electricity. In other cases, the deal included purchase of the property at a good figure and also the moving of the house to another site. The committee will buy sites, move off some of the houses it bought, and sell them.
      Within ten days the various property owners were visited until finally all signed and the committee held options on the entire tract needed. The net cost of acquiring these properties, after some houses may be sold, and other sites purchased, is estimated at about $75,000, or half what the Skagit Steel management had estimated as a prohibitive cost.
      In the meantime the committee had been soliciting contributions from business houses and individuals in the community. Week by week, the amount of these pledged donations climbed, until last week the goal of $100,000 was reached with many local merchants pledging as high as $2,500.
      The Skagit Steel management was amazed and delighted that the community had made such a generous offer to help retain the new plant for Sedro-Woolley; but it was decided that to insure the location of the plant in Sedro-Woolley, it would be better to get the plant buildings financed locally, instead of the original plan of financing through Seattle banks. With the cooperation of S.S. McIntyre, A.H. Ward, Fred Fellows [Skagit Valley State Bank, soon to become National Bank of Commerce] and members of the committee, a plan was worked out to eliminate the donations and to ask the people to buy a total of $300,000 in debenture mortgage ten-year bonds, bearing five percent interest, and backed by a mortgage on the new property and the new plant. The committee at once started out, changing the donations to investments in bonds, and in many cases, amounts were doubled, and many local firms, believing the new plan to offer a splendid investment as well as a new industry to the community, pledged purchases to as high as $50,000, and in one week the $300,000 in bonds was oversubscribed.
      The committee was assisted at various times in its work by Tom Black [Black's Clothing], Fred Vochatzer [Equals Variety], Chuck Carroll [sawmill], Jack Farmer [retail], Merle Niece and others.
      Fred Fellows helped the committee of four in selling these bonds, and the entire community cooperated in a response that amazed both the committee solicitors and the management at the Skagit Steel & Iron Works. The achievement in reaching this goal made the establishment of the new plant in Sedro-Woolley almost a certainty, except for a few formalities and approval by the interested parties in the project.
      Journal Ed. note, 2011: several more stories in this series will follow next year, including the details of how the businessmen raised the funds to entice Skagit Steel & Iron Works, and the logistics for expanding the plant acreage, and the erection of the new plant addition for the Army shell contract.

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Story posted on April 24, 2005, moved to this domain Oct. 9, 2011
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