Derry Township’s economy before Milton Hershey returned to build his chocolate factory was primarily agricultural, supplemented by a small group of commercial businesses, ranging from grain mills to stone quarries. Milton Hershey had a profound impact on the region. When he broke ground on March 2, 1903 for his new chocolate factory, he also was making plans to build a model industrial town for his workers. Milton Hershey desired to build a town that was both functional and attractive. His plan was well thought out. Plans for the town included comfortable, well-built housing, a wide array of services including utilities, good roads, phone service, clean water and public transportation to provide a sense of freedom for his workers. Just as important were his provisions to educate his workers’ families.
While Milton Hershey is best known for the establishment and funding of Milton Hershey School, during his lifetime Milton Hershey supported public education in Derry Township with both financial and structural gifts. His support continued after his death with trust funds created to support educational opportunities in Hershey and to help defray the cost of public education.