The Millionaire Truck Driver And Other ESOP Miracles - CLEO Skip to main content


I hate to say it, but here goes: too many Americans, including highly-educated and experienced business people, have just plain given up on this country’s manufacturing industries, believing low-cost producers in China and elsewhere are unbeatable.

And many of these same knowledgeable people would also tell you that solving the country’s retirement savings crisis is impossible.

To all of them, I suggest a pilgrimage to Lowell, Ark., where 517-employee Central States Manufacturing Co. just might change their minds about all of that and more. Founded in 1988, Central States buys big rolls of steel, then precisely cuts, bends and finishes the material into components for low-rise commercial, agricultural and residential buildings.

The company doesn’t have any conventional competitive advantage — no important patents or intellectual property, no exclusive technology or equipment, no employee skill that isn’t found in a thousand other workplaces. And yet, Central States grows rapidly, is solidly profitable and its employees have the opportunity to amass stunning amounts of retirement savings.