Video: Neighborhood revival

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    >>> back now with a neighborhood revival at an american factory that not so long ago appeared headed for the history books, like so many others. closing up shop after more than 150 years. we get our report tonight from cnbc's brian shactman in minnesota.

    >> reporter: with 80-year-old machines and one 76-year-old expert on site -- i like

    >> i like to see the place go again.

    >> reporter: the fairbauld mills when opened in 1965 is literally weaving its way back from oblivion.

    >> when they shut the doors here, i was devastated. to drive by here every day and see this beautiful place closed, it was so hard for me.

    >> reporter: jenny jones and 100 others lost their jobs when the company closed in 2009 , a victim of poor management and a weak economy.

    >> it was hard here before. we gave everything we had to this company and there were weeks without pay and we still came in every day.

    >> reporter: untouched for two years, a liquidator was about to ship the equipment to a company in pakistan. then with just three weeks to go, local residents and cousins chuck and paul moody bought the mill.

    >> people are tired of hearing we can't do it. it is going overseas. we can do it.

    >> right now they have 35 workers. the goal is to raise that to 50 by year's end and to double that number in 2012 . why would the moodys, who know nothing about the business, with family money on an abandoned blanket factory.

    >> probably stupidity more than anything.

    >> reporter: but they're not quite the novices they claim to be. chuck is a retired dairy queen executive.

    >> want it looped over.

    >> reporter: paul, a lawyer and former business owner .

    >> are we doing okay?

    >> reporter: they didn't know how to make blankets, but they knew who did and most of their first hires were former workers like jenny jones and mary boudreaux.

    >> we need their expertise and their guidance and stewardship. and they needed somebody to step up and say, you know what, this thing is worthy of saving and bringing back to life.

    >> it is great having a job again.

    >> is that emotion or are you trying to pick your words carefully? i can't tell?

    >> it is emotion. i love having this job. i love being here.

    >> reporter: in a still struggling economy, once old american company coming back and putting people back to work. brian shactman , cnbc, fairbault, minnesota.

By
CNBC
updated 11/6/2011 7:06:03 PM ET 2011-11-07T00:06:03

The Faribault Woolen Mills is weaving its way back from oblivion one thread and one American employee at a time.

In 1852, Alexander Faribault founded the Minnesota town bearing his name.

Thirteen years later, the Faribault Woolen Mills opened for business, shipping its products all over the world.

As it blanketed the global marketplace, the factory wove itself into the community — until 2009, that is, when it literally stopped mid-stitch, bankrupted by poor management and a weak economy.

"When they shut the doors here, I was devastated," said 31-year old Jenny Jones, who helped make blankets there for four years until the plant closed. "To drive by here and see this beautiful place closed, it was so hard for me.

"This place means so much; not just to me, but to the community."

Image: The revival blankets from the online catalogue
faribaultmill.com
The revival blankets from the Fairbault online catalogue

The building sat untouched for nearly two years. If you snuck in, you'd see wool still sitting in bins. Blankets were left, half-made.  

Over time, several interested parties toured the facility, but no buyers. Ultimately, a company operating out of Pakistan offered to buy the equipment.  

Everything was labeled and tagged for shipment. Then something unbelievable happened.  

'You could say it was stupidity'
Two men in this quiet community of 23,000 people decided to roll the entrepreneurial dice.  

Cousins Chuck and Paul Mooty decided to buy it all, from the aging equipment to the formerly global brand.

"The only thing that worked in here were some of the lights," said Paul Mooty, a lawyer who ran another business for the better part of a decade before taking over the woolen mill.  

At first blush, it didn't appear to be a very good idea.

"For the baseline story, I guess you could say it was stupidity," said Chuck Mooty, who was a retired executive at Dairy Queen.

Both men were successful, and neither needed the money, so why risk family money on a rusty old company that hadn't registered a sale in two years?

Faribault Woolen Mills plant in Minnesota.
faribaultmill.com
Faribault Woolen Mills plant in Minnesota.

"We were both ready for a new challenge," Chuck Mooty said. "It's about bringing jobs back. It's about bringing opportunities back to a number of people. And so it has that community piece.

"It also has that business piece of competition, of how do we take a neat nostalgic brand and hopefully try to create it to be relevant in today's world?"

Faribault Woolen Mills now has 35 employees, most of whom worked there before the company was shuttered in 2009.

The Mooty cousins told NBC that although they're not yet profitable, they are fully funded. In addition, they expect the number of employees to rise to 50 by year's end and double that in 2012.

The impact has already been monumental for the community.  

"When I got the call, I was excited. I was jumping around," said Jones, who had gone back to school to earn her teaching degree. She dropped that plan the moment an opening became available at the mill. "I love getting up every day coming in here.  

"It's great having a job again."

The Mooty family is banking on the Faribault Woolen Mills brand and its intrinsic value. It has a 145-year old history and has warmed an incredible range of people — from soldiers in World War I to passengers on airplanes.

Chuck and Paul Mooty also think the return of manufacturing jobs to the Minnesota community could be repeated in other parts of the country.

Faribault's Soho Plaid Throw
faribaultmill.com
Faribault's Soho Plaid Throw

"People are a little tired of hearing, 'We can't do it,'" Paul Mooty said. "We can do it. We're going to do it here. And I think that message can hopefully carry over to other industries and get back to manufacturing here (in the U.S.)."

Chuck Mooty is less rah-rah when talking about possible manufacturing growth in the United States.

"We bring, hopefully, a competitive price and timeline that says, 'You know what, I'm going to support domestic,'" said Mooty, who noted that fuel, labor and shipping costs are more expensive in emerging markets than they used to be.

The mill means more than just a job for many of the 35 people working there.

Mary Boudreau, 76, worked at the mill for 50 years and came back when it reopened.

"I'd like to see the place go again," she said as she worked with Jones to set a loom for a new rug pattern. "I started here in 1954, and here I am. Still here."  

And so is the Faribault Woolen Mills.

A version of this story, "Revived Mill Keeps Jobs In Town," first appeared on cnbc.com.

Follow Brian Shactman on Twitter at @bshactman.

© 2012 CNBC, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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