On the heels of announcing that they will expand to include a second shift of industrial sewers, doubling their local workforce, Atlas 46 is preparing to roll out their Remaking America Program at their manufacturing pod in Hillsboro.
Already operational at the company’s pod in Fenton, MO, the program is designed to create local job opportunities, an element that has long been at the forefront of both John and Brian Carver’s vision for the American-made company.
“Creating jobs and opportunities in the US workforce while producing goods for other hard-working Americans is something we are especially proud of and relates back to our strong history of developing and producing gear for the U.S. military and Special Forces community,” said Brian Carver, CEO of Atlas 46, in a 2019 interview with the Illinois Business Journal.
The concept behind the Remaking America Program is to allow the company’s industrial sewers to work from home on a freelance basis as contracted employees of Atlas 46. Through training the sewers and helping them purchase the machinery needed to not only work for Atlas but freelance for others as well, the American-made company is essentially helping employees set up their own small business hubs.
“The beauty of the Remaking America Program is that there is a lot of room for variation, without it being high-stakes for us or the banks we are partnering with,” explained Hillsboro Site General Manager Kyle Anderson, who will oversee the program locally. “Atlas’ goal is to give local people their own means of production. This program is already thriving in Fenton and we have seen how giving our people ownership leads to increased quality standards and higher efficiency. As a company, it is in our best interest to help our employees attain dignity of work and pride in their own production.”
The home sewers will be given batches of materials to make a specific amount of products and will be required to meet predetermined deadlines. Each batch will come with a sample of the contracted product for the industrial sewers to follow at home. The batches will be assigned based on the sewers’ level of experience and the batch’s priority level.
In addition to getting their batches completed in time, the sewers are also responsible for the quality of their work. Atlas 46 is internationally known for their commitment to quality and product durability, and hold their sewers to military-grade standards. Home sewers will undergo a six-month, in-house, training period, at the Berry Street location, before jumping into the home sewing program. The home sewers contract also has rigorous stipulations concerning cleanliness of product, prohibiting items from being turned in with food or smoke smells or pet hair or dander.
The Remaking America Program is meant to hone skills as well as increase production. Products will be inspected for quality when turned into the manufacturing pod. Sewers will receive regular feedback and instruction concerning the products being manufactured.
The contracted employees will be paid biweekly, per piece, rather than at an hourly rate. The per piece price will be determined when the batch is returned and varies dependent on the product being manufactured.
While Atlas is looking to teach industrial sewing skills, they also want their home sewers to own their own means of production - industrial grade sewing machines. Anderson has been working alongside the city’s economic planner, Jonathan Weyer, Thomas Gooding, chairman of First Community Bank of Hillsboro and Jason Miller SVP, head of deposit operations at the Bank of Hillsboro to offer low-interest personal loans for employees to finance the industrial grade machines.
The loans pose little risk to the banks as they will be financially backed by Atlas 46, who will step in to resume payments in the case of default. While the loans are not necessarily profitable to the local banks, they provide them with an opportunity to reach a larger and potentially un-banked demographic.
“Working with Atlas 46 to help implement this new venture will allow us (First Community Bank and Bank of Hillsboro) to reach a wider customer base. With Atlas backing the loans it will be easier for sewers to apply for a small loan that they will be able to pay off over a short time period,” said Gooding. “The hope is that the program opens up a new avenue of dialogue with the bank and puts the sewers’ feet-in-the-door to build up credit and broaden their financial opportunities.”
The Bank of Hillsboro and the First Community Bank of Hillsboro will each offer two loan options, a $2,400 loan and a $4,500, for individual sewers to purchase pre-selected industrial grade sewing machines. The actual purchasing and delivery of the machinery will be handled by Atlas 46. The sewers are responsible for fulfilling the loans. However, the machinery will legally be owned by Atlas until the sewer has paid off the small loan in its entirety.
“On our ends, there isn’t a lot of risk or profit,” said Miller. “For us (Bank of Hillsboro and First Community Bank) the loans are a way we can help bring long-term job opportunities to the area and help boost our local economy.”
Anderson, Gooding and Miller also discussed how to ensure that the bi-weekly loan repayments would not be a hardship to the sewers, who will be relying on their paychecks to cover living expenses. Repayment options will be set up at the time of the loans, though the banks plan to offer customized options regarding the amount of the payments and auto-deduction options.
Locally, the program will roll out with about three to four of Atlas’ in-house sewers, current employees who have already been trained to replicate the company’s standards. However, Anderson’s overall goal is to gradually expand the Remaking America Program to include new employees as well as existing employees, with a focus on hiring within Montgomery County.
“We’re living in very difficult times and it is becoming more and more essential for us to step back and question old models,” said Weyer, speaking on behalf of the City of Hillsboro. “This is a revolutionary program that is going to help our people control their own lives by determining when and how they will work. Hillsboro will continue to push the boundaries of job creation to provide new opportunities for our citizens.”
Those interested in applying for a position with Atlas 46 or in finding out more about the Remaking America Program can contact Anderson at 309-417-7684, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or the new-storefront at 307 South Main Street in Hillsboro.