Abstract Building on research published by C. Wright Mills and Melville Ulmer in 1946, the relationships among community welfare and civic engagement, the independent middle class, and big business are examined. Manufacturing-dependent counties are the units of analysis. Partial correlation analysis is used to identify the effects of the independent and mediated effects of big business, civic engagement, and the independent middle class on community welfare. Results show that a local economy organized around smaller-scale, diversified enterprises has more favorable outcomes than one dominated by one or more large corporations.