MrBeast, Just a Part of Your Life Now, Bought a Whole Neighborhood for His Workers

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Is MrBeast Building a "Company Town"?Getty Images

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  • YouTuber MrBeast was recently reported to have bought up a cul-de-sac of houses for his employees to live in.

  • It's led to some online drawing parallels to the oppressive "company towns" industries used to oppress workers in the early 20th century

  • But before folks start trying to go all Tom Joad on it, let's take a look at what it actually is.

In 1903, Milton Hershey founded the town of Hershey in the Derry Township in Pennsylvania. Intended as a town for his workers to live and thrive in, it offered not just then-modern conveniences like electricity and indoor plumbing, but also public transit, free education for workers' children, and free vocational schools. Hershey, Pennsylvania is now a thriving tourist destination with museums, local sports, and a popular amusement park.

In 1928, Henry Ford converted land within the Amazon rainforest into an industrial town called Fordlândia in order to try and cultivate his own rubber supply separate from the British monopoly of the time. The workers in the town were forbidden from consuming alcohol or tobacco, from enjoying the company of women, and even from playing soccer, and inspectors were sent from house to house to enforce the rules. The tensions regarding the restrictions built up to a worker revolt, quelled days later by the Brazilian army. The town was abandoned by 1934, and "not one drop of latex from Fordlândia ever made it into a Ford car," according to NPR.

In 1966, Walt Disney unveiled plans for a utopian city in Florida, whih was to be called the "Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow." The plan was for "a community of 20,000 residents living in neighborhoods that would double as a showcase of industrial and civic ingenuity," where lower-income workers would reside in an outer-ring of high-rises while the more prosperous could be more towards the center of the town, and there would pointedly be "no unemployment." Disney himself would die that same year, his vision unrealized, and the company chose to make Walt's intended city into a vacation destination instead, which now includes a theme park fittingly called EPCOT. But it does indeed have special privileges for its operation as though it were its own city, which you might have heard about in the news recently.

And in 2023, YouTuber MrBeast bought a neighborhood in his hometown of Greenville, North Carolina for his friends and staff to live in, and everyone who knows anything about any of the above stories can't help but notice some parallels there...

We Bought a Cul-De-Sac

MrBeast, a fabulously wealthy and extremely popular internet content creator, is famous (and for some, infamous) for his filmed acts of generosity, many of which involve houses. From giving an unhoused family friend of one of his team a new home, to destroying his brother's house for a stunt (and buying him a new one), to selling his own home for $1, it's not surprising that MrBeast (real name Jimmy Donaldson) has ultimately ended up buying an entire town in order to provide housing for himself, his family and friends, and (in what's causing a dustup online) his employees.

The New York Post reported the story regarding MrBeast's acquisition of homes in his hometown of Greenville, and though the headlines might give a reader the worst kind of "company town" vibes, the reality isn't quite so Fordlândia (yet, anyway). The Post reported that MrBeast "has been quietly buying out a neighborhood for himself, his family and his employees" and "has purchased five modest and separate homes in the area he grew up in, centered around a cul-de-sac." So not quite "tear down the Amazon" levels of chaotic city-creation (once again, not yet anyway).

And while buying five houses would fit anyone's definition of extravagant, it's worth noting that the houses being scooped up by the 25-year old with a net worth of $54 million aren't exactly million-dollar mansions. "Donaldson purchased his own home when it went up for sale—and what would be his first on the street—in 2018 for about $320,000, according to records obtained by The Post."

"Donaldson then slowly began to buy up the rest of the homes surrounding his for family and employees—paying more than usual for each," The Post notes, and indicated that there remains "just one hold out house," reportedly waiting for their kids to finish school before potentially selling. And no, as far as we can tell, MrBeast has not begun employing intimidation tactics to get them to leave like a 19th-century railroad baron (once again, not yet anyway).

So, why is MrBeast doing this? Well, he's a big booster of his native state. A look at the job listings for his company indicate that they're almost entirely based in Greenville instead of farming them out to remote workers in major metropolitan areas. (Not that this author was personally looking for a gig in the YouTube world. I very much have a face for podcasts). And MrBeast's commitment to boosting the local economy of Greenville is such that he's apparently in constant communication with the mayor, who has proudly stated, "Those dollars that he's paying out in wages stay in our community."

"I Owe My Soul to the Company Store"

When the story first broke about MrBeast buying up the homes for his friends and employees to live in, many were quick to jump to the idea of the "company town." MrBeast even responded to one such poster drawing the parallel by saying, "Only I could get canceled for giving people a place to live with no strings attached ... All these company town tweets make no sense, I was just helping some people."

And you know what? Even if you're fully anti-MrBeast, you gotta admit, when he's going up against a Twitter user calling themselves "Super Saiyan MailGod Flow," who is acting like they're suddenly John Steinbeck fighting for the little man by sarcastically drawing a parallel to a thing they seemingly vaguely remember from AP U.S. History? It's like an Alien vs. Predator, whoever wins we lose, kinda thing.

So, to conclude, is MrBeast building a "company town"? By Merriam-Webster's definition of "a community that is dependent on one firm for all or most of the necessary services or functions of town life (such as employment, housing, and stores)," then no, he is not. Until every restaurant in Greenville is a MrBeast Burger, and Karl and Chandler need to pay their bills in "MrBeast company scrip" because they owe their soul to the company store, no, this cul-de-sac doesn't count as a "company town." (Though we can all agree it's a small miracle MrBeast hasn't tried to make his own money yet. Last thing we need is the dude getting into crypto.)

So, if MrBeast's housing purchases are not part of a company town, what do we call this? To hear him tell it, it's just a guy using his wealth to do a solid for some people during a difficult housing market, so it's surprising to him that Twitter is upset about it. (You know, Twitter. A place where people are famously chill about both housing availability and capitalism.) For our purposes, we can say it's certainly not Fordlândia, as we've heard nothing about MrBeast banning alcohol from the property, and there has yet to be a worker uprising (we stress again, not yet anyway).

But what is it going to be? Could it be the next Hershey, Pennsylvania? After all, this guy does also have a chocolate company. Could it be the next EPCOT? Like Disney, MrBeast does have a devoted following amongst kids, and draws a near equal amount of exhausted ire from their parents. Either way, the answer here is obvious: it's going to be a theme park eventually.

Damn. We just gave this kid his next video idea, didn't we?

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