More than eight decades ago, Forry Laucks, then owner of York Safe and Lock, predicted that war was inevitable. For this, he faced opposition by those who believed the Nazis were Europe’s problem. Many believed that, protected by two oceans, the United States was untouchable. Laucks did manage to convince a small group of companies in York, Pennsylvania to begin building defense components. Emboldened by this support, he embarked on a mission to Washington, D.C. to secure government contracts in an industry in which York was not familiar. In the Spring of 1940, the community realized they had to act upon Laucks’ call to action as the United States teetered on the brink of war.
York leaders came together to discuss how to best prepare the community for the upcoming challenge. Talks centered on how to mobilize local industries to assist the war effort. From these discussions, four families were nominated to develop a plan that would support the United States and its people. They were given six months and three guiding principles.
This meant that everything from that point forward needed to be about facing this single, unimaginable challenge. They needed to focus the nation on preparing for what was coming. This led to the next principle.
At the time, the nation was polarized and divided, but people agreed they could “hate each other later.” They had to rally behind the President and get to work to save America.
They realized that a plan that did not include everyone would be incomplete. Faith-based organizations, schools, government, Industry leaders, and even children were mobilized to carry out the plan.
In six months, a plan was created to pivot local industry to meet the demands of the times. It was named the York Plan – a cooperative effort designed to up-skill workers, repurpose machinery, and accelerate the production of wartime supplies and other critical needs. These leaders knew that to win the war, the United States did not just need to build tanks, ships, and guns. It needed to first build up its people. Without homes, workers would crumble. If sick, our communities would falter. Without new skills to meet never before seen challenges, people would be unable to protect their future.
The plan’s 15-point outline included concepts Silicon Valley has been using for more than a decade – crowdfunding, crowdsourcing, building maker spaces, a resource sharing economy popped up around tools (since they were scarce), and manufacturing was überized.
When war was declared, the President of the United States sent out a request for proposals and the people of York were ready and willing to meet that request. The nation was not prepared, but York was. Information about the York Plan spread via Rotary clubs under the slogan: “Do what you can with what you have” and was adopted as a national strategy – a community of communities, all moving with a sense of urgency and in the same direction.
This effort ultimately led to our nation’s victory. Shortly after the war ended, people returned to their regular lives and the York Plan faded into history. In fact, the only mention of the York Plan today is a mural displayed in a McDonald’s parking lot. That is, until now.