I was visiting my son a few years ago in Los Angeles, California, and was enjoying the limited time I get to spend with him. On this particular day he had some things to do, so I contented myself with visiting a small book store not far from his apartment.
As someone who has worked in manufacturing most of his career, I was naturally attracted to a section that featured books on this subject. To my dismay, the books I browsed contained page after page of once thriving factory buildings lying in various states of ruin.
|Robert Slass on the site of Rotor Clip's first building|
in 1972. Bob founded the company in 1957 and it is
still a successful U.S. manufacturer supplying
I had seen similar books back home particularly those on the steel industry and the theme seemed to be the same: manufacturing in the US is dead and all we can do is mark its demise with grotesque photos of rusted steel and collapsed walls.
That was the last straw.
When I returned home, I vowed to write a book that portrayed Rotor Clip as a U.S. manufacturing company that spanned the very era of demise depicted in these books, yet was not only still standing, but thriving. I wanted it to be a tribute to our founder, Robert Slass, and, to a greater extent, to the very qualities of innovation and entrepreneurship that he exemplified as part of our country’s manufacturing culture.
I was determined not to make this a public relations piece that was more glitz than substance. Many company histories are well-meaning, but they tell a very parochial story that only those close to the company would really care to hear.
Finally, I wanted to call attention to careers that a young person could pursue in manufacturing that involve the same technology and innovation we equate with hi-tech companies. Jobs in manufacturing today are not the boring, monotonous ones that our grandfathers performed. Rather, they are career paths, requiring higher level skills as well as manual dexterity that can be very satisfying and rewarding.
I have been fortunate to work with a group of dedicated folks here at Rotor Clip who are assisting me in this project. With their help we hope to have the book available in e-book form by the summer. If you’d like to receive automatic excerpts over the next few months, click here and e-mail me your request. I'll add you to my mailing list for updates.
One of the books I skimmed while at that LA bookstore was a photo collection depicting the ruins of Detroit. It noted how many developed parts of the city were being overtaken by trees, grass and flowers.
“Its emptiness is an invitation to wander and reflect upon the new and radical solutions for the Detroit of the future,” noted the author, Andrew Moore. Perhaps this passage is exhorting us to look at the decay of Detroit as a kind of creative destruction. The old must make way for the new. Or, as the motto after the Detroit fire of 1805 put it more aptly,” We hope for better things; it (Detroit) will arise from the ashes.”1
In case you haven’t noticed U.S. manufacturing has begun its rise from the ashes. It won’t be meteoric, but it will be reminiscent of the ambition and drive of entrepreneurs like Bob Slass who through their collective vision made U.S. manufacturing the envy of the world.
It’s time we see American manufacturing in a new light, not one obscured by the images of past decay.
Joe Cappello is Director of Global Marketing for Rotor Clip Company. If you would like to receive excerpts from his upcoming book on Rotor Clip and American manufacturing, clickhere and e-mail him your request. He'll add you to his mailing list for updates.
1DetroitDisassembled, Philip Levine, Andrew Moore, Akron Art Museum and Damiani Editore, Copyright 2010, Page 119