I found an interesting piece by Lyle Estill, a founder of Piedmont Biofuels … a Pittsboro, North Carolina-based maker of biodiesel and other “things.”
Estill’s column in the Chapel Hill (NC) News is really good piece that not only talks about his little biodiesel company’s resilience in the face of a tough market, but also of the principles his blue-collar father taught him about American industry:
By the summer of 2009 the biodiesel industry was on the ropes. Feedstocks were too expensive to be used for fuel.
One of our welders, Rick, said, “Hell, we should just make things.”
And that seemed like a good idea.
Nowadays we don’t just make biodiesel. We also make worm bins for vermiculture systems, and we make rain water delivery systems out of scrap, and we make containers for square foot gardeners, and we make boiler fuel out of free fatty acids, and we build custom boiler systems, and we make seed crushing systems that extract oil, which means we also make animal feed.
I really liked Estill’s perspective at the end of the column, where he talked about being back in the manufacturing business … even if it’s not biodiesel:
There was a time when the only thing that shipped from the plant was biodiesel. These days there is no telling what is on the truck.
But it feels good to be making things again. It even smells good.