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Steel Valley Authority is the nationally recognized leader in layoff aversion, responsible investment and innovative economic policy. Our mission is contributing to renewed prosperity and sustainable communities through our expertise and continued innovation in job saving and capital strategies.

Wendell August Forge

Wendell August Forge, located in Grove City, has been a regional "heirloom" since 1923. Its roots started in decorative iron work, evolving into aluminum and other metals in the 1930s. Its fine, hand-finished giftware sells in many of America's finest department stores. Over the years, Wendell August Forge established a world-wide following through its catalogue and e-commerce sales. 

In late 2008, Wendell August Forge completed a costly expansion with the addition of a new satellite store in Exton, PA - just in time for the all-important fourth quarter retail selling season. Wendell August Forge substantially increased its inventory, in addition to the capital investment of the new store, in anticipation of its forecasted sales growth. Unfortunately, October 2008 signaled the start of the worst recession in eighty years, with consumer purchasing plummeting. Like most retail companies, Wendell August Forge experienced dismal sales during its fourth quarter, damaging its profit margin for the year.

Wendell August Forge enlisted SEWN's help in the spring of 2009. Initially, we focused on cash management, cutting costs and increasing productivity in what is a labor-intensive process requiring a high level of skill and craftsmanship. SEWN and Wendell August Forge looked at the company's top-line revenue growth opportunities resulting in a more aggressive e-commerce strategy to leverage catalog sales. SEWN retained an outside consultant to design and build a state-of-the-art web marketing program.

Wendell August Forge's bank remained quietly supportive throughout the early stages of the turnaround process. As the process progressed, however, the senior lender found itself in financial turmoil as a result of the Great Recession. SEWN worked with Wendell August Forge to restructure the company's finances with a new lender.Wendell August

By the fourth quarter of 2009, Wendell August Forge was well-positioned in what would be a critical holiday season. The company executed its marketing and production plan perfectly, and reaped the benefits of their dedication and hard work.

By the spring of 2010, Wendell August Forge increased its efforts in business to business marketing, and was rewarded with the largest such order in the company's history. The Pittsburgh Penguins commissioned Wendell August Forge to create commemorative ticket replicas for its last home game in the old Mellon Arena.

Again, tragedy struck Wendell August Forge when its flagship manufacturing and retail facility in Grove City burned to the ground shortly after receiving the order from the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Fortunately, Wendell August Forge rose from the ashes of this devastation, through the hard work and devotion of its owners and employees and through the commitment of the forge's customers and community. As part of the previous year's cost-cutting strategy, Wendell August Forge had consolidated all of its manufacturing operations under one roof. Several older, fully-equipped manufacturing cells remained at the anciliary location, and served as the basis for continuing operations. The pattern dies, hand engraved by master engravers over the years, had been stored in a fireproof room and escaped irreparable damage. Insurance replaced the hard assets, and the community rallied its support. A local business that owned a synergistic business allowed a short-term lease for a new interim retain store. Pennsylvania Northwest provided additional support with the interim manufacturing/distribution/administrative location.

SEWN worked with Wendell August Forge to create a value-stream analysis in conjunction with the Northwest Industrial Resource Center. The study identified major productivity impacts that will affect the new layout and design processes as Wendell August Forge rebuilds.

With a bit of luck, the sounds of hammers on metal should be reverberating around Mercer County for another eighty years.