Of the 850 or so companies we've profiled the past four years, is there a single business we can point to that embodies all that's compelling about the new manufacturing economy?
It's a tall order. But among the criteria, we might agree that said company would be:
Moreover, if we can identify more than a handful of companies, across manufacturing industries, that meet these criteria, would this then formally equate to a new era -- a new golden industrial age -- of American manufacturing?
I'm inspired to ask these questions because this week we feature a company that meets our criteria of a bellwether modern manufacturer.
We first profiled Steamboat Springs-based Moots in CompanyWeek's inaugural month of September 2013. This week we revisit the company and new president Drew Medlock, seemingly a great addition to a company leading a vanguard of maker businesses reshaping the sector.
Moots' talented designers and fabricators, sellers, brand managers, and other employees may not fully grasp what they're accomplishing -- no more than those working at Colorado's other cycle manufacturers like Guerilla Gravity or Alchemy -- but the combination of entrepreneurialism and a renewed interest in the physical product add up to a powerful magnet for aspiring young professionals.
Moots is pioneering with advanced materials and processes -- titanium and 3D printing, for starters. The Moots' weld is also a thing of beauty.
As Medlock notes in the profile, "I think European customers have even more of an appreciation for metal bikes over carbon fiber." Can Moots open international markets for other exporters, even if it can't today handcraft enough bikes to become a significant player? It's a good bet. Moots' brand embodies quality and craftsmanship, ingenuity and industry.
Much as Utah's ENVE Composites has done for wheels and components, Moots is leading a movement to bring cycling manufacturing back to the U.S., mainly from China and Taiwan. As Medlock points out, it's no walk in the park. Domestic manufacturing "is always a major challenge for us in terms of cost. We always try to source . . . domestically. So that's a challenge. It's not easy."
Yet for communities from Steamboat to Park City to Telluride, the primary jobs that Moots and its peers keep in the local economy can be a foothold to establish more non-service sector jobs, employment alternatives that help places escape the single-industry business cycles that bedevil local economies.
Finally, Medlock and the Moots team may not realize they're game changers, given the day-to-day challenges of staying in business while bucking the move to offshore production, where cheap labor and materials add up to black on a spreadsheet. If they could, they might fully embrace the transformative effect many small- to medium-sized manufacturers are having on America's manufacturing brand.
This week, we'll do it for them, and remind the business community that if we don't align resources to ensure that Moots and other companies like it succeed, we'll have a missed an opportunity to change our industrial fortunes. It's a sure bet that, in sounding a cautionary tale about supply-chain challenges, there are days when businesses like Moots and leaders like Medlock contemplate resource-rich ecosystems, wherever they may be.
Let's not miss the opportunity to rally around change agents like Moots. Manufacturing will prosper as a result.
Bart Taylor is publisher of CompanyWeek. Contact him at email@example.com.