WOMEN@WORK

Three faces of manufacturing in Maine

Posted Nov. 24, 2011, at 1:13 p.m.

Traveling west on Route 3 out of Belfast, one might drive right by the Pieceworks manufacturing facility in Montville. That is exactly what I did. Pieceworks is a modest two-story structure set back into the woods. But don’t let appearances fool you — it is a busy manufacturing company.

Pieceworks Inc . has been in business for 16 years and provides contract manufacturing and assembly services to entrepreneurs, filling a distinct need in Maine and across the region. Pieceworks bridges the gap for other small businesses by providing creative and custom solutions to streamline and scale-up their manufacturing and production challenges — keeping jobs and resources in Maine.

As owner and operator Cathy Roberts explained, “There are many products that still need to be manufactured with a combination of machinery and skilled people. Our staff is highly trained, we design and build our own jigs to efficiently produce our products, and offer businesses our facility where they can successfully have their products manufactured and assembled locally. Most importantly, a hands-on approach and personal ‘touch’ is still available at Pieceworks.”

That personal touch is one reason Dresden entrepreneur Jennifer Koshnichuk of Miss MoonMaker has chosen Pieceworks to produce its line of bath products.

Nearly on the other side of the state, nestled in the mountains of western Maine, is a 14,000-square-foot building which is the home of Winderosa Gasket Inc. Established in 1967, Winderosa Gasket is an industry leader in gasket manufacturing, producing and distributing high-performance gaskets for ATVs, snowmobiles, personal water craft and small engines. Of course, there have been many changes in the manufacturing field since 1967, when the company first opened its doors. When asked to talk about those changes, General Manager Lolisa Windover does not hesitate: “The real question is what changes have you seen in the last second? There have been and continue to be remarkable improvements in materials, tooling and cutting technologies. One of the great things about being a smaller manufacturer with in-house control is that we can test new products and experiment with new techniques at the drop of a hat, which gives us an edge on the market.”

Undoubtedly, Winderosa Gasket is cutting-edge and innovative, resulting in its success and dominance in the field. Windover’s leadership and management philosophy combined with her strong belief that employees are family are also very important factors for the success of this small manufacturing company in Peru. As Windover relates, “We are a family business and we put family first. Every employee knows that from the day they walk in the door. As a single mom with two teen daughters, I understand how life gets in the way of your job and your job gets in the way of your life and you have to make it all balance. Walking into our facility one may have a hard time figuring out who the boss is. We all work together, and do any job that needs to be done that day to ship an order. If one department gets backed up, everyone shifts gears and helps out.”

Finally, 60 miles south of Peru is Custom Composite Technologies Inc., located in Bath. Steve and Maureen Hassett launched CCTI in 1999, to provide composite fabrication specialties to custom boat builders. CCTI works closely with Hodgdon Yachts, and builds mast tooling for many America’s Cup syndicates. Their brand is superior fabrication creating unique, one-off products using advanced methods and materials. Quality, not quantity defines the company’s mission. CCTI’s work is now known internationally and has expanded into other fields, including architecture.

Maureen Hassett explains the foray into that area: “One day, as our shop was quite busy, I received an email from someone whose name I did not recognize. My first instinct was to delete it, but I didn’t. From this email, we found ourselves selected as a builder for world-renowned London architect Zaha Hadid. Based on our reputation of being able to create the difficult from the unknown, we custom fabricated two unique sculptures: Stalactites and Wall Relief.”

CCTI built these vast sculptures in a mere six weeks; they were then transported to New York City and exhibited at the Sonnabend Gallery in Manhattan.

Remarkably, but for one isolated incident, none of these three manufacturers have suffered from the effects of offshoring. Their businesses have thrived despite the tide of outsourcing which often plagues American industry. These distinct manufacturing ventures were built to last. So nice to know (and not surprising) — these successes were cultivated right here in Maine.

Jenn Dobransky is the microenterprise coordinator for the midcoast for the Maine Centers for Women, Work, and Community ( www.womenworkandcommunity.org). She can be reached at jenn.dobransky@maine.edu.

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