Opinion piece submitted by Bob Duff, CT Senate Majority Leader
Earlier this year I received a very warm, encouraging letter from Jacob Harrison Long, the CEO of American Woolen Company in Stafford Springs. You may never have heard of the company or the Connecticut town they call home, but their significance cannot be understated.
You see, they’re the only worsted/woolen textile company left in America. However, theirs is not a story of desperation. They’re doing extremely well and have a diverse clientele from established high-end retail brands to young start ups.
When the fear mongering about companies moving out of Connecticut was at an extreme, Jacob wrote to tell me his company is proud to call Connecticut home. He made it clear his focus is not on what it costs him to be in Connecticut, but rather the untapped potential of Connecticut as a hub of consumer product innovation and manufacturing. Those are his exact words.
And that’s my big-picture vision for Connecticut. I’ve often said that one business advantage we enjoy is our well-educated and skilled workforce. Combine that with our current work in developing Innovation Places to help start-ups and entrepreneurs and the potential for growth is nearly unlimited.
What sets American Woolen Company apart from competitors in other countries is a relentless pursuit of excellence combined with a healthy dose of homegrown pride – not ‘Made in America’ but ‘Made in Connecticut.’
We’ve been through some rough times together, but let’s not lose sight of our Yankee ingenuity heritage – the one that urges us to not be discouraged, but rather to adapt, improvise and innovate.
Jacob shared the names of other Connecticut businesses that are successfully doing just that. Some, like The Waterbury Button Company, have been around almost as long as the country itself. Hosmer Mountain Soda in Willimantic and Munson’s Chocolates in Bolton are relative newcomers, names your parents or grandparents might know. And then there’s the truly ‘new guys in town’ – Two Roads Brewing Company in Stratford, Hartford Denim Company, and The Brothers Crisp Footwear in Hartford.
What they all have in common – what has always made Connecticut great – is that uncompromising desire to be the best. If we start there and then look for that untapped potential I mentioned earlier, there’s little that can stop us from achieving success after success.