UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Decision-making in a one-industry townCompany towns Port, Albert Walter


Communities with relatively undiversified economies are an intermediate category between the monolithic "company town" and the industrially diversified metropolis. A community with an undiversified economic base is influenced by factors external to it, including absentee ownership of industry and the international market. The part which the "company" plays in the decision-making process of such a community is examined. Propositions concerning the emergence and viability of decision-makers in this particular environment are considered. Research was carried out in a community- of 12,000 people which depends heavily on a single industry. Leaders were identified by a multi-step approach which, drew on a panel of knowledgeable persons in the community. Twenty-two men identified as leaders were interviewed. Their interrelationships and participation in decisions which affected the community were explored. The individual and collective resources available to leaders were considered. It was found that the major employer had made unilateral decisions on economic and organizational grounds. As long as these decisions resulted in stability and continuity for the community this activity was not recognized by the citizens as company participation in the decision-making process of the community. When these unilateral decisions adversely affected the community it became possible for new decision-makers to emerge from the most threatened non-company sector of the community. "New leaders" were instrumental in having the economic situation in the community redefined as problematic. Not only did new leaders emerge, but new organizations were created which, when they were defined as legitimate, provided a mechanism for tapping the resources already in the decision-making network. Brief consideration is given to the possibility that access to the decision-making process based on unusual circumstances can be transferred into more conventional positions of power in the community.

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