A Worker's Paradise

Charlotte Hays | Posted on 03/08/10

Inspired by visits to Henry Ford's River Rouge plant and the Endicott-Johnson shoe plant in 1919 and 1920, Tomas Bata built assembly line factories in his village and surrounded them with a model "garden" city

It an era when the free market is often derided as being cruel, the small town of Zlin in the Czech Republic is famous for something besides being the erstwhile home of Ivana Trump-the formerly Communist town is now a confident, modestly prosperous city with small businesses and a university.  

According to the Christian Science Monitor, Zlin owes it all to the free-market values of Tomas and Jan Bata, shoe manufacturers and admirers of Henry Ford:

The reason, residents say, is the legacy of Tomas Bata and his brother Jan, who built Zlin as an industrial utopia. "The approach toward free enterprise ... managed to survive," says Zdenek Pokluda, director of district archives.

Inspired by visits to Henry Ford's River Rouge plant and the Endicott-Johnson shoe plant in 1919 and 1920, Tomas Bata built assembly line factories in his village and surrounded them with a model "garden" city.

At a time when many Czechs lacked power or running water, Bata built thousands of brick houses for workers, each with indoor plumbing, electricity, balconies, and a garden. He constructed a hospital, department stores with subsidized prices, sport facilities, parks, and the country's largest movie theater. Managers were trained in the company business school; marketers, in its film school; designers, in its art institute. Workers had free healthcare and schooling and some of the top wages in the country. Bata, who was mayor, controlled everything.

 

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