"If You Can Do It with Toys, You Can Do It with Anything"

Those are the words of Michael Araten, President and CEO of The Rodon Group and K'NEX Brands, during the Manufacturing Day event I attended last Friday at their Hatfield, Pennsylvania facility. He was referring to the "patriotic capitalism" the company embraces, which has resulted in the reshoring of most of the work they outsourced to China.

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Manufacturing Day 2014 hosted more than 1,500 events across the country. That is more than double from last year! The theme of The Rodon Group event was “Manufacturing Tomorrow’s Future” with a focus on the role government plays in promoting and growing our manufacturing economy. Speakers included representatives from the National Institiute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the U.S. Commerce Department's Select USA Program. Both of whom discussed data and resources aimed at helping manufacturers and consumers understand the importance of promoting U.S. investment and making the U.S. a net export nation.  

However, the highlight for me was not just walking the shop, but the unexpected one-on-one tour I received from K'nex inventor, Joel Glickman. What an amazing story! One that dates back to his father, who recently passed away at the young age of 100, and from whom Joel received the hardworking upbringing that exposed him to the value of manufacturing. Being an artist at heart, Joel eventually used that artist's vision to create the K'nex toys in 1992, which make up about 20 percent of The Rodon Group's business today.

And these toys are not only fascinating to play with, they are actual teaching toys. K'Nex has partnered with schools to inspire kids and promote STEM with its building sets. How common sense is that ...using toys to teach children the basics of how things work and having fun as they are doing it.  

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