This issue is a testament to an industry that is coming back. The recession hit woodworking manufacturers hard, and many did not survive. But woodworking as a whole has survived, and there is new energy in the land to make it thrive once again.
I was particularly heartened by my recent visit to a once shuttered factory at Saunders Brothers in Locke Mills, Me. At its peak, the business had been doing $12 million a year manufacturing high quality dowels and turning products, but the company fell on hard times and was put on the auction block. Ironically, no one in the woodworking industry had the guts and vision to see the value in the plant and its people. But a woman who had grown up in the area did. Louise Jonaitis left a 20-year career in social work to become a woodworking industry entrepreneur, buying the business at auction for a fraction of what it had been worth. With the help of a loyal and enthusiastic workforce, she’s not only bringing that business back, but she’s also bought the assets of another defunct plant, Moosehead Furniture, and plans to revive that brand as well.
In a broader view, this is not just about woodworking. It’s also about manufacturing in America in general. Listen to Jonaitis as she talks about the cultural impact of manufacturing. “If a culture doesn’t make something, the culture becomes psychologically depressed. It reaches a point where people don’t believe any more.” That sounds a lot like all the nonsense about America not making anything anymore.
America is still the world’s largest manufacturer, and the woodworking industry is a big part of that. In this issue, you can not only read about the rebirth of Saunders Brothers in Maine, but you can learn about the birth of a new Foliot furniture factory in Nevada, and Studio L, a small custom shop in New Jersey that has applied modern technology to diversify its products and effectively compete. And further, you can read about the new products and opportunities for networking and information offered by the AWFS show in Las Vegas.
Let’s stop crying about the past and have the gumption to move forward for a better future.
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