American Roots: Manufacturing Career Pathways in Portland

American Roots: Manufacturing Career Pathways in Portland

Posted Aug 18, 2016

A family run business that trains and hires job seekers and keeps manufacturing in Maine? American Roots, located in Portland, Maine, does all that. Launched in 2015 by Ben Waxman and Whitney Reynolds, American Roots works in partnership with Old Port Wool and Textile, a company owned by Ben’s mother, Dory Waxman. Both companies partner with CEI’s Portland Job Alliance. American Roots is a union company, manufacturing and selling 100 percent American made Polartec outerwear. Its owners are committed to paying livable wages and providing benefits to its employees.

“CEI has been instrumental in helping us find and train workers who will be the backbone of American Roots. We were excited to collaborate with CEI’s Portland Jobs Alliance and establish a second 12-week training class. With these two training programs and the microloan CEI provided for sewing machines, American Roots went from concept to reality.”
–Whitney Reynolds, co-founder, AMERICAN ROOTS

Within the manufacturing sector in Maine, stitchers are in short supply. A training program developed by CEI and American Roots will help address this shortage, providing viable career paths for Mainers. While the program isn’t tailored specifically to them, many Mainers who arrive as immigrants and refugees have stitching experience, making this program a promising opportunity. To date, four job seekers have been hired as stitchers (out of an initial training class of six) at American Roots and Old Port Wool & Textile; seven more students are currently in training. The students currently enrolled in the training program hail from a range of countries including Iraq, Congo, and Burundi.

“Working with American Roots and Old Port Wool and Textile to develop a curriculum to train workers for a growing sector in Maine; providing financing for an innovative start up company–this is a great example of how CEI helps to create economic opportunity.” said Liz Love, Program Developer, CEI Workforce Solutions. “Our wide range of business solutions allows us to offer entrepreneurs what they need, whether that’s with financing, business advising or workforce training. Our expertise and engagement in a variety of economic sectors gives us the ability to identify trends and anticipate the needs of Maine businesses.”

“Old Port Wool and Textile was committed to creating a training program to assist in building a workforce for our sister company American Roots. Because of our foundations and experience in this field it made sense to reach out to CEI and create a partnership. CEI has been an incredible resource in creating and building the Old Port Wool and Textile training program. We look forward to continuing the program, and we are so grateful!”
–Dory Waxman, owner, OLD PORT WOOL AND TEXTILE

CEI is now working to support a broader group of textile companies by developing an industry-recognized credential for employee training, catalyzing additional funding and increasing the program’s impact in Maine.