Business: Corn-Belt Edison

In Columbus, Neb. (pop. 13,000) the mayors of 39 nearby communities gathered this week to break ground for an addition to Behlen Manufacturing Co. and pay their respects to its president, Walter Behlen, 53, a corn-belt Edison. Inventor Behlen, a man given to loud sport shirts and a pink Cadillac, made a gross profit of exactly $194 his first year in business in 1940; last year he earned $3,309,000 by ceaselessly following a simple inventor's rule: "Ideas are a dime a dozen—it's doing something with them that counts."

Behlen, a self-taught engineer who never got beyond high school, wasted few ideas. While...

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