American-made plan in the bag

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Articles - Nov/Dec 2012
Monday, November 05, 2012



1112 GamePlan WiggysIf Doug Hoschek can’t get REI to consider carrying a line of sleeping bags, then probably no one can.

The impassioned 68-year-old veteran of the textile industry preaches a mean gospel for sleeping bags, outerwear and the insulation that fills them from Wiggy’s, a Colorado company founded by longtime friend and associate Jerry Wigutow. He got to know bigwigs like Jim Whittaker, the one-time CEO of REI and the first American to summit Mount Everest.

And around 1980, Hoschek himself helped develop and sell one of the most ubiquitous fabrics in the outdoor world — Polarfleece — while on the payroll at the famed Massachusetts textile company Malden Mills.

“For 15 years, I basically controlled who got Polarfleece in the U.S.,” says Hoschek, whose run with the fabric essentially ended in 1995 when a fire burned Malden Mills to the ground.

With most textile manufacturing now outsourced overseas and stateside retailers sticking with their foreign supply chains, Hoschek has had a tough time getting Wiggy’s bags, which are popular with the U.S. military, into the broader outdoor market. Undaunted, Hoschek opened his own Wiggy’s retail store in Bend’s Old Mill Marketplace in early October, which sells Wiggy’s American-made sleeping bags and outdoor clothing.

Competing with big names like The North Face and Marmot won’t be easy, but Hoschek is confident in the products and thinks consumers will be too. He’s also encouraged to hear that Wiggy’s Alaska, a small store Wigutow helped start in Anchorage, has annual sales north of $500,000.

Beyond finding success through the Wiggy’s store, Hoschek also sees a greater goal in his current endeavor: revitalizing domestic manufacturing and restoring Oregon to its proper place as a synthetic and natural textile powerhouse. One idea: helping Wigutow possibly relocate his manufacturing operations — with job opportunities for up to 40 people — to Bend in 2013. Hoschek says he ran his thoughts on reviving Oregon’s textile sector past Gov. John Kitzhaber earlier this year.

“He looked at me, his eyes got wide and he said, ‘How are you going to do it?’” Hoschek says. “And I said, ‘Just watch.’”


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There’s a fascinating article in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review about a profound power shift taking place in business and society. It’s a long read, but the gist revolves around the tension between “old power” and “new power” as a driver of transformation. Here’s an excerpt:

Old power works like a currency. It is held by few. Once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven. It downloads, and it captures.

New power operates differently, like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.

The authors, Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans, don’t necessarily favor one form of power over another but merely outline how power is transitioning, and how companies can take advantage of these changes to strengthen their positions in the marketplace. 

Our Powerbook issue might be viewed as a case study in the new-power transition. This annual book of lists provides information on leading businesses, nonprofits and universities in the state. Most of the featured companies are entrenched power players now pursuing more flexible and less hierarchical approaches to doing business. Law firms, for example, are adopting new technologies and fee structures to make legal services more accessible and affordable.

This month we also take a look at a controversial new U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring public companies to disclose the median pay of workers, as well as the ratio between CEO and median-worker pay. 

Part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, the rule will compel public companies to be more open about employee compensation, with the assumption that greater transparency will improve corporate performance and, perhaps, help address one of the major challenges of our time: income inequality.

New power is not only about strategy and tactics, the Harvard Business Review authors say. “The ultimate questions are ethical. The big question is whether new power can genuinely serve the common good and confront society’s most intractable problems.”

That sounds like a call to arms. Or a New Year’s resolution. Old power or new, the goals are the same: to be a force for positive change in the world. Happy 2015!

— Linda


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