Fort Wayne, Indiana was spiraling downward two years ago when I went to shoot a video for Delcam, a global company that makes CADCAM software for just about every segment of the manufacturing industry. Precise Manufacturing, where I was shooting, is an old, established company in a large, brick warehouse: the kind that, in most cities, has been vacated, renovated, and turned into lofts, microbreweries, or demolished to accomodate a Home Depot.
At first, the place appeared to be a museum to the golden days of American manufacturing. Lines of drill presses and other World War 2 vintage machines stood ready yet idle. Only a few employees were visible, evidence of the downsizing made to survive the worsening recession and exporting of part-making to China, India, eastern Europe and other cheaper locales.
But I was in for a big, happy surprise. The managers and employees told me that things were actually going very well. They showed me the parts they were making and how they did it: Buying advanced CNC machines and Swiss lathes, retraining personnel, and in the process, lowering costs, reducing cycle times, producing better parts, and winning back the business they’d lost to foreign competitors.
Now, Reuters reports Fort Wayne, Indiana is one of America’s “hot spots” for jobs as the Great Recession still troubles most of the country. And manufacturing is leading the way. Hearing and seeing this renaissance is the most rewarding part of my job. After 31 years of delivering bad news about everything while working in the corporate news media, I see first-hand and report what’s really going on in American manufacturing. I’ve been blogging and talking about this for years and few have believed me or picked up on the story. Ironically, now that the corporate news media are reporting it, maybe they will.