Be on the lookout. In 2019, Gadsden County, Florida in general and Quincy, Florida in particular will be celebrating the 100 year anniversary of their close connection to Coca Cola. A yearlong celebration unlike anything that has ever taken place in this region:
- Art exhibitions that will allow you to look into the collection of one of the biggest brands in the world; master artists like Norman Rockwell; N.C. Wyeth; Andy Warhol; Walker Evans; Gordon Parks and more.
- Commemorative Bottle events
- Boat Races
- Fishing Tournaments
- Bike Races
- Displays at all museums in the county
- The actual homes borne out of the “millionaire” connection
- And more, more, more…the planning has just begun.
If you’re not quite sure what we mean by COKE MILLIONAIRES? Well…
In the 1920’s and 1930’s, a banker named Pat Munroe in the small town of Quincy, Florida noticed that even during the depths of the Great Depression, otherwise impoverished people would spend their last nickel to buy a glass of Coca-Cola. Sound familiar?
With good returns on capital and a once-in-a-century valuation where the business was trading for less than the cash in the bank, “Mr. Pat”, as he was called encouraged everyone he knew to buy an ownership stake in the firm. He would even underwrite bank loans, backed by Coca-Cola stock, for his responsible depositors to encourage people to acquire equity.
Coca-Cola had gone public at $40 per share but a conflict with the sugar industry and its bottlers resulted in a 50% crash shortly thereafter, when it reached $19 per share. Focusing on the bottom-line profits, and the power of the brand, Pat Munroe kept buying. And he kept telling everyone else to buy, too.
That one observation, and Mr. Pat’s business skills in convincing others to buy assets that produced cash irrespective of short-term market fluctuations, not only changed lives, it saved the farm town during the Great Depression as the local economy was supported by Coca-Cola dividends. It has also supported the town in “every recession since”, according to the man who now runs the trust department in the bank that was once headed by Munroe.
When crops fail, it was the Coca-Cola cash that kept people employed. When the national economy collapsed, it was the Coca-Cola cash that allowed people to stay in their homes. When times were good, and Coke was cheap, more shares were purchased.
Quincy became the richest town per capita in the entire United States at the time. At least 67 appropriately dubbed “Coca-Cola millionaires” amassed significant fortunes before passing these on to children and grandchildren, in some cases through outright gifts and in other cases through the use of trust funds. The bank where it all started has Coca-Cola on display and, as of a few years ago, a staggering 65% of the trust assets under management are still invested in Coke stock.
A single share with dividends reinvested was worth $10,000,000 in 2013. It would be gushing $270,000 in pre-tax cash dividends to the owner by sending a check for $67,500 or so in March, June, September, and November of each year. Had great grandma and grandpa picked up a round lot of 100 shares for $1,900 to $4,000 depending on the purchase price, they’d be sitting on a billion dollars, excluding the effects of estate taxes. Can you even begin to imagine?
And by the way, the bank received $100,000 in Coca-Cola shares during the IPO for its part of the underwriting deal and kept the stock in the vault for generations. It grew into billions upon billions of dollars, gushing out tens of millions of dollars a year in dividends that supported the bank’s balance sheet.
Quincy, Florida, and Pat Munroe is simply an amazing story. A group of people who decided to ignore the stock market entirely and focus on the one metric that matters: The profit generated by the business, and to a lesser extent, the percentage of that profit that was received each year in the form of dividends.
So remember…be on the lookout for a yearlong “Coca Cola” celebration in 2019. You’ll begin to see information about all that will take place throughout 2018.
Less than a half-hour from the hustle and bustle of the Florida State Capital, Gadsden County is decidedly more laid-back. There is a quality of life in Gadsden that combines the best of the past with the convenience of the present. Rolling hills, rich history, abundant recreational opportunities, a thriving arts culture community and historical architecture combine to make Gadsden an interesting and beautiful place to visit and to live. Get outdoors and find your adventure.
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