Faribault Mill: 2023 Manufacturing Excellence Awards
The old woolen mill on the banks of the Cannon River in Faribault is one of the last of its kind in the United States—a vertically integrated plant that takes raw wool and weaves it into blankets and throws. Inside Faribault Mill’s production facility, fabric- and blanket-weaving equipment that’s more than a century old works side by side with high-speed looms and a multimillion-dollar fabric dryer.
“This new machinery allows us to really increase the efficiencies and output in the mill,” CEO Ross Widmoyer says. As for the old machines, “we have a great group of mechanics on our team that have allowed us to find spare parts and figure out how to keep these antique machines functional—and running at a speed that allows us to continue to scale the business like we have,” Widmoyer says.
The 158-year-old business, which was brought back under new ownership in 2011 after a two-year shutdown, continues to scale for a new generation. The company projects revenue will have grown 100% from 2019 to 2022. In those years, it has doubled its employee count and opened three retail stores in Minnesota, with a fourth in Maine launching this year. It has introduced more than 100 new products, primarily new blankets and throws. And this past March, it acquired Brahms Mount, a Monmouth, Maine, maker of cotton blankets and throws. For that reason, the company is no longer called Faribault Woolen Mill.
“We think there’s a huge opportunity to become a national brand,” Widmoyer says. “That’s why we’ve invested the way we have—upgrading our facility here in Faribault, buying a cotton mill, investing in retail stores, and aggressively growing our digital marketing and e-commerce reach.”
One thing that hasn’t changed: the company’s emphasis on its made-in-the-USA cachet. “It’s a huge part of our value proposition—and a point of emphasis for our ownership group and our management team,” Widmoyer says. “We think that makes us one of the best manufacturers in the world; because if we weren’t good at what we did, we’d have been gone a long time ago.”
Location: Faribault, Minnesota, and Monmouth, Maine
Specialty: Woolen and cotton blankets, throws, and related products