Losing local businesses hurts sports leagues

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By Larry Goffinet

When a Perry County business ceases operations, it affects our local economy in many ways.

Obviously the loss of jobs and taxes provided by the business hurts. But local sports leagues are also adversely affected by losing a sponsor and source of donations.

Take for example William Tell Woodcrafters/Swiss Plywood, which told its employees earlier this month it would probably close by Dec. 31.

Woodcrafters has sponsored a baseball team continuously in the Tell City Babe Ruth League ever since that league was formed as the Tell City Pony League in 1963. Bill Borders, chairman of Swiss Plywood Corp., even coached the team a few years.

Swiss Plywood Corp. was also one of the original sponsors in the Tell City Women’s Softball League when that league was formed in the mid-1970s.

Through 1981 it sponsored two teams in the women’s league, one called Woodcrafters and one named Swiss Plywood.

Borders also coached the Woodcrafters team in that league several years and served as league president one year.

Woodcrafters also sponsored a team in the former Tell City Men’s Basketball League in the late 1970s and early ’80s.

And for the last 12 years Swiss Plywood has sponsored a team I’ve been privileged to coach in the Tell City Girls Softball League.

I believe we were one of only two teams in the league that had our own catcher’s mitt and catcher’s helmet—each a $100 item—provided by our team sponsor. Other teams had to share equipment provided by the league.

And a couple of times when I put together a pickup team of players who didn’t make league all-stars to give them a chance to play in a tourney, Borders agreed to pay part of the entry fee.

Swiss Plywood Corp. did get some good publicity from its teams—in 2007 Woodcrafters swept the regular-season and playoff titles in the Babe Ruth League and Swiss Plywood did the same in the age-13-16 girls softball league.

But the company wasn’t into team sponsorship for the glory. It kept sponsoring those teams even after they had bad years, such as the year my Swiss Plywood team didn’t come close to winning a single game.

Bill and Gene Borders also knew how badly Tell City needed a regulation-size, all-weather track to replace the one-fifth-mile concrete track the schools previously used. Therefore they and Swiss Plywood helped the Tell City-Troy Township School Corp. come up with the funding for the new track, which debuted in 1991.

Now Swiss Plywood will likely close because it could not find a buyer and “market erosion from overseas competitors, combined with the recent economic conditions, has left us with little choice,” Bill Borders told our editor, Vince Luecke.

Sometimes foreign companies can provide products at lower prices, often because they pay their employees substandard wages.

But you won’t find them sponsoring teams in local sports leagues. That’s something to think about the next time one is tempted to buy foreign-produced goods.