SUMMITVILLE, IN—The 1,032 residents of Summitville are rallying to save CEC MidCorp, a struggling, Indianapolis-based corporation that posted record fourth-quarter losses last year.
A petrochemical conglomerate with holdings in steel and concrete, CEC MidCorp has been badly hit by the recent recession, losing more than $180 million in the final quarter of 2001 and forced to scrap plans to open a tungsten-carbide plant in Mexico. The corporation's woes first came to the attention of the people of Summitville on March 28, when resident Paula Bester saw a report on CNN/fn.
"Life has been pretty tough for me ever since my husband walked out, leaving me to raise three kids on a waitress' salary," Bester said. "But hearing about CEC MidCorp's financial troubles on CNN/fn really put my situation into perspective. I mean, there I was, obsessing over how I was going to find $300 to pay the rent, when there's a company out there that lost more in three months than I'll see in my entire lifetime. I knew I had to do something."
On April 4, Bester mentioned CEC MidCorp's sagging revenues to the town clergyman, Rev. Bill Fletcher, in the hopes that he could make special mention of the company's plight in his sermon and encourage the congregation to keep CEC MidCorp and its shareholders in their thoughts and prayers. Touched by the request, Fletcher instead organized a bake sale to raise money to help CEC MidCorp build the tungsten-carbide plant it had dreamed of opening.
Though the two-day bake sale raised only $258, well short of the needed $630 million, the event helped spread word of MidCorp's troubles. Throughout the next few days, Summitville residents came up with ways big and small to help the beleaguered corporation. While many residents dug deep into their savings to give whatever they could, others came up with goods and services to help see CEC MidCorp through the rough times.
"I'm on a tight budget, but, by heavens, I knew I could do something," said retired widow Beatrice Evans, who took a bus to CEC MidCorp's Indianapolis headquarters to "help tidy up and put a happy face on things." "The Summitville motto is to always be neighborly."
"In the end, everybody in town had something to contribute," said retired tool-and-die maker Benjamin Fowler. "If you couldn't make crafts for the fair, you could contribute some unwanted items from your attic for the flea market. My own granddaughter, who's just 6 years old, gave $2.30 she'd been saving to buy a new doll."
The crowning achievement came Sunday, when the town's three-day "CEC MidCorp Daze" festival not only raised $1,839, but also drew residents from nearby Alexandria and Hackleman, all eager to do their part to help American industry.
"Even Tom Barker, who got so many jeers and razzes for being the only councilman to oppose naming April 'MidCorp Fundraising Month,' showed up in the end to sit in the dunk tank," Fowler said. "That's the spirit of Summitville."
To date, the residents of Summitville have raised $7,348, which town mayor Hal Munsingame proudly hand-delivered to CEC MidCorp's headquarters Monday. Unable to get past the lobby-security guards, Munsingame left the cash with a receptionist along with a note reading, "Summitville believes in you!" and a jar of Edna Rafferty's homemade strawberry preserves.
"You should all be very proud of yourselves," Munsingame told a throng of Summitville residents gathered in the town square Tuesday. "And I don't want anyone to be down in the mouth just because we didn't reach the full $630 million. Every little bit helps. And next month, we'll raise even more!"
No one was more touched by the outpouring of support than MidCorp CEO Jim Brodhagen, who personally thanked the townspeople for their efforts in a letter.
"Thank you for your interest in CEC MidCorp," Brodhagen's letter read in part. "But while we greatly appreciate the support of our investors and welcome new ones, we prefer that CEC MidCorp stock be purchased by conventional means, through an accredited broker."