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September 25, 2015

West Paw Design: Manufacturing Happiness for Pets and People

After a period of selling financial software on the East Coast, 23-year-old Spencer Williams returned to his home state of Montana with the intention of creating something that brings joy to people’s lives. In 1996, Williams purchased a local cut-and-sew pet toy company in Livingston, Mont., and with less than five employees, Williams set out to establish what is now known as West Paw Design, an American manufacturer of eco-friendly toys, beds and apparel for dogs and cats.

Photo credit: facebook.com/westpawdesign

Photo credit: facebook.com/westpawdesign

A True American Manufacturer

A few years after purchasing the company, West Paw Design had nearly doubled in revenue and in size. In 1998, too big for its current space, West Paw Design and all 15 of its employees moved 26 miles west to Bozeman, Mont. Instead of outsourcing its manufacturing operations to overseas, Williams decided to invest in the local community and build a state-of-the-art, eco-friendly manufacturing facility, where the company is still located today. In fact, it’s where 98 percent of West Paw Design’s products are made.

On its website, West Paw Design refers to itself as a “true manufacturer who makes products rather than simply writing a purchase order for goods overseas.” This bold yet truthful statement is made evident through its product innovation. In the early 2000s, Williams was working to develop a dog toy that could substitute for a tennis ball, which is made with toxic glues and has a coating that wears down the teeth of dogs. Wanting more control over environmental impact than he would have working with a contract manufacturer, Williams decided to invent his own material. Working with a small, family-owned plastics company, Williams created Zogoflex, an exclusive bendy, stretchy, bouncy plastic material that’s both non-toxic and fully recyclable. Today, products containing Zogoflex account for half of West Paw Design’s revenue.

Returning the Joy

West Paw Design continues to return the joy that pets bring to their people’s lives by providing them with quality, non-toxic products made right here in America.

“Without compromise, we make great products for pets. It is our honor to be a unique company that does what we say,” Williams says in a company blog post. “We are proud to manufacture the best toys and beds and know that by providing the best, safest products we make pets and their people very happy.”

To learn more, visit westpawdesign.com.

September 18, 2015

Manufacturing Takes an American Giant-Step Forward

Investing in “high quality product, American manufacturing and exceptional service.” That’s what it says on the website of the American-made online apparel company, American Giant. Headquartered in San Francisco, American Giant is the first apparel brand to rethink the traditional supply chain. Through a direct-to-consumer approach, American Giant is able to invest in producing the highest quality clothing, at great value, all made in America.

Photo credit: american-giant.com

Photo credit: american-giant.com

The Greatest Hoodie Ever Made

According to the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO), about 650 textile plants closed in the U.S. between 1997 and 2009 due to outsourcing, costing hundreds of thousands of American jobs.

Despite the statistics, Bayard Winthrop, an entrepreneur with no prior experience in fashion design, was determined to prove that American manufacturing could be profitable once again. And in 2012, Winthrop launched American Giant, a clothing brand that sells its products solely through the internet. After only 10 months on the market, the company’s sales exploded when Slate magazine declared American Giant’s primary product, a zip-up hoodie, “the greatest hoodie ever made.”

An American-made Resurgence

Built from the belief that America has a history in manufacturing that’s worth preserving, Winthrop is helping to create what Fast Company calls “an ­American-made resurgence, one that draws its power from both a heritage appeal and the Internet.”

“We challenged ourselves to find a way to truly liberate American manufacturing,” Winthrop says in a Yahoo! Finance article. “All our fabrics, from cotton in the ground, all the way up through knitting, yarning and dyeing processes come up through a Southeast supply chain and ends up in our main factory in North Carolina.”

Today, American Giant’s manufacturing operations have grown from a single factory in San Francisco to another in Southern California and three more in North Carolina.

To learn more about the company behind the greatest hoodie ever made, visit american-giant.com.

September 11, 2015

Simms Fishing Products: Hooked on American Manufacturing

In 1980, John Simms, a fishing guide from Jackson, Wyoming, saw a need to develop a higher quality of fishing waders and accessories than what was available at the time. That pursuit led to the establishment of Simms Fishing Products, the only American manufacturer of fishing waders in the country.

Photo credit: facebook.com/simmsfishing

Photo credit: facebook.com/simmsfishing

In the mid-1980s, Simms saw quick success from being one of the first companies in the world to introduce high quality neoprene, a synthetic rubber, into its waders, which provided improved warmth and waterproofing for anglers. Shortly after, John Simms sold Simms Fishing Products to another Jackson sporting goods manufacturer, Life-Link International. In 1993, current owner K.C. Walsh, a passionate angler and management consultant, acquired the company and relocated it to Bozeman, Montana.

Under Walsh’s leadership, the company became known for its product innovation. Shortly after Walsh acquired the company and moved it to Bozeman, Simms introduced a line of breathable waders using GORE-TEX® fabric, breathing new life into wader innovation, comfort and performance. Simms is the only U.S. and one of only three wader manufacturers in the world that is licensed to use GORE-TEX® in waders.

Quality That Lives and Breathes on the Water

Despite the company’s changes in ownership throughout the years, the one constant that has remained is Simms’ unwavering commitment to American manufacturing. Today, all of Simms’ waders are handcrafted in America and stitched one seam at a time by nearly 120 locally based employees at its 60,000-square-foot facility in Bozeman. The company has even been recognized as a “Montana Jobs Economic Engine” by former Montana Sen. Max Baucus.

“Simms Fishing Products is the kind of Montana business that can inspire others to weather the storm through hard work and innovation,” said Baucus in a 2011 news release. “This company truly is an economic engine for our state. It also shares Montana’s outdoor heritage with the world by selling the kinds of products that remind folks everywhere that Montana is a great place to do business, live, work and enjoy our rivers and lakes.”

To learn more about Simms Fishing Products, visit simmsfishing.com.

September 3, 2015

Keeping American Manufacturing Popping

In 1914, Cloid H. Smith started the American Pop Corn Company in Sioux City, Iowa where he launched America’s first brand name popcorn, Jolly Time. A century later, the company is still family-owned and operated in the U.S. by the descendants of Cloid Smith.

Photo credit: jollytime.com

Photo credit: jollytime.com

Cloid Smith pioneered the U.S. popcorn industry, personally hand-shelling the popcorn with his son, Howard, selling product to small grocers and street cart vendors. In 1925, Cloid introduced a proprietary canister designed to seal in kernels’ moisture. With his newest introduction, the American Pop Corn Company began to pop.

By 1929, the American Pop Corn Company’s yearly sales of Jolly Time Pop Corn had surpassed 10 million pounds. Ten years later on its 25th birthday, Jolly Time was named the “World’s Largest Popcorn Producer.”

A Homegrown Approach

Unlike many of its competitors, the American Pop Corn Company has resisted corporate acquisition over the years and has remained dedicated to being an American manufacturing operation dependent on relationships with local farmers and factory workers.

In fact, the American Pop Corn Company still manufactures its popcorn in America on the same site in Sioux City that it has been for the past 100 years. All of the corn that the company uses is purchased locally from about 100 farmers in Nebraska and Iowa, many of whom are multi-generational farmers that have been growing popcorn for Jolly Time since the 1930s.

Today, the American Pop Corn Company has sold nearly three billion pounds of Jolly Time Pop Corn, offering its American-grown products in grocery stores nationwide and in nearly 40 countries.

To learn more about the American Pop Corn Company, visit jollytime.com.