In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, the concept of the company town was widespread throughout the western world. A company town would emerge when a labor-intensive firm would build housing and recreation around its place of business to accommodate its workers. The downside of this process is that the company would come to have a monopoly on both the employment that provided the town’s residents with money, and the housing, food, and entertainment that they spent it on, creating an insurmountable conflict of interest for the company not to exploit their privileged market position.
Company towns therefore largely went away as soon as we invented and broadly distributed gasoline-powered transportation to and from work. The ability for both firms and workers to settle across a larger area increased the resiliency of both, as firms could find new workers and workers could find new jobs with less friction. Increased mobility would therefore seem to work to the benefit of all, as well as the bargaining power of workers.
Fascinatingly though, as commutes have gone digital, effectively allowing firms and workers to locate literally anywhere in the world with internet access, a new sort of company town has emerged: the distilled workforce town. That is, given the extent to which home prices, the predominant driver of cost of living, have become stratified by geography, white-collar workers now choose their location by income level (implicitly, job function and seniority level), rather than firm.
While not suffering from the monopoly power implicit in the original company town, the challenge workers face in a distilled workforce town is potentially from a lack of opportunity, in which workers living in cheaper cities never personally interact with those who would promote them, except via Zoom. In other words, the proverbial story of the ascent from mailroom to C-suite becomes even less likely (and not just because no one has a mailroom anymore).
To the extent that Flannery associates is successful in building an affordable company town in Solano County, perhaps its relative proximity to the Bay Area somewhat mitigates that problem.