Our friends at the Texas Collection posted a dynamite write-up on their blog earlier this week about the General Tire & Rubber Company’s plant in Waco, Texas. Their post mentions Congressman W.R. Poage’s involvement in the plant’s construction; we’re taking this opportunity to tell you more about his work. The whole process began, interestingly enough, in Waco’s neighbor city of McGregor.
Plans for the tire plant began when Congressman Poage discovered (by accident, he claimed) that the United States government was considering building new aluminum extrusion plants and thought such a plant could replace the shell-loading operations in McGregor, Texas. Near the end of World War II, these operations were in decline, necessitating the need for a new source of industrial revenue. Initial proposals from the McGregor Chamber of Commerce suggested converting or sharing the Bluebonnet Ordnance Plant, but the space proved inadequate. However, the War Production Board suggested repurposing the facility as a tire plant.
Chambers of Commerce from McGregor, Temple, and Waco met to discuss the prospect. The Bluebonnet plant was soon deemed unfit due to the Ordnance Department’s extremely hazardous operations and the search for a new location began. Poage met with officials to present data regarding his district’s status as an “area of adequate labor supply” and show the local availability of tire-manufacturing materials. Focus on the prospective plant’s location switched from McGregor to Waco. The city’s Chamber of Commerce determined the plant would definitely come to Waco if they could find a proper location and finalized the deal in October 1943. Poage himself deferred credit for the victory, saying that while he may have gotten the ball rolling, the Chamber of Commerce carried it over the finish line.