Friday September 8, 2017

11:30am - 1:30pm

The Aspen Institute, Washington D.C.

Rural-Grown, Local-Owned Manufacturing

More than 3.5 million rural Americans work in manufacturing. As rural America’s second largest sector, manufacturing employs 14% of rural civilian employees and produces 15% of total rural earnings – that exceeds the retail sector, and is more than double agriculture’s presence in our rural economy.

After an era of marked decline, rural manufacturing is on the upswing. Local businesses and nonprofit innovators are re-shaping how manufacturing – and its higher quality jobs so important to family and community prosperity – can stabilize, grow and become a driver in their rural regions. Some rural manufacturers producing new, highly specialized world-class products are also finding it in their self-interest to invest in their workers and community revitalization. Others are creating new corporate structures and regional networks – with worker-owners gaining more stake in business success – to increase the likelihood that businesses will grow locally and not move away. In every case, partnerships with government, philanthropy and other manufacturers are critical to success.

ARO’s September panel will highlight how several rural-grown and local-owned businesses and networks are making manufacturing work in rural America. Our participant's description:

From Threads to Fabric: New Trends in the Making
Molly Hemstreet – Founder & General Manager, Opportunity Threads
Tanya Wade – Intake Administrator and Project Specialist, Carolina Textile District
Western North Carolina – and surrounding states

In western North Carolina, a robust textile manufacturing industry once supported generations of artisans and their communities. But the last few decades of outsourcing and industry changes have seen mills close, jobs leave and lives change. Today, a unique collaboration among a worker-owned cut-and-sew business (Opportunity Threads), a county economic development organization, an innovation center, and local mills and makers has emerged as a regional value chain that is meeting growing demand for domestic, environmentally friendly textile production, bringing new hope to small manufacturers in a multi-state rural region.


July 18, 2017

Morganton, NC

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June 22 - July 1, 2017

The Aspen Institute, Aspen, CO


Molly Hemstreet will be speaking on a panel moderated by NPR's Special Correspondent, Melissa Block as part of the Making it in the USA Track.

Unsettled by slow — if any — income growth, unnerved by the pace of technological change and disruption about which they have little control, and unhappy with the fixes that have been presented at home and abroad, people across the map are on edge. And rightly so. While income gaps are more pronounced today than perhaps any other time in history, technology and innovation — drivers of economic growth — are seen to swallow traditional jobs. The future of work is uncertain and populist anger has reached a fever pitch. Are we innovating, trading, and educating ourselves out of jobs? Will we make things in America again? What is next for the US economy? In this track, we will examine the opportunities that the “next economy” presents, debate the policies that could stimulate investment and job growth, and showcase the ideas that could put America back to work.


Especially since the 2016 election, the term "rural America" is tossed around casually and constantly in our national political and economic dialogues. But those conversations are often one-dimensional, overly general, or worse, miss the mark completely. What is mainstream coverage overlooking? What is it getting wrong?

western women's business conference

June 22, 2017

Thinking outside the boss

Franzi Charen presents on why selling your company to your employees is the best kept secret for succession planning or pursuing your bucket list, while maintaining a stake in your business. You will learn to analyze the feasibility of your business and how to spark the conversation with your team. It’s never too early to plan for success!