Abstract: A Public-Private Partnership in Town Promotion: Elyria Ohio, 1900-1910

Judith J. Friedman


Businessmen in Elyria, Ohio, transformed its economy within a decade. A county seat with a diverse economy in 1900, Elyria became a small city tied to the regional metals industry and the national telephone industry before 1910. Industrialists and bankers formed a Chamber of Commerce in 1899 and set up a committee to attract new industry and negotiate with companies. Companies typically wanted free land or a site fund, sewer connections, paved roads, and housing nearby for workers. City government made decisions on platting, road paving, and sewer connections. The 1900 Councilmen were primarily local merchants. Thus industrialists had to work with small businessmen to get utilities for new firms, to raise money for site funds, and to get housing built. Through the decade, industrialists became more active in city government, and they brought more merchants into the Chamber as officers, as well as members. Elyria added Elyria Iron and Steel, Columbia Steel Works, Fox Furnace (a Cleveland firm making hot-air furnaces), Dean Electric, Garford Automobiles, American Lace, Perry-Fay Company (machine screws) and Worth Manufacturing (clothing). While the Chamber took credit for this growth, only three of the companies were truly brought in from the outside.