There were recurring themes during a Kalispell Chamber of Commerce panel discussion about manufacturing last week.
Freight costs are a continuous challenge; good employees are hard to find so if you have them, do what you can to keep them. And paperwork can make or break a small manufacturer.
The Chamber discussion kicked off a month-long schedule of tours and other events showcasing the Flathead Valley’s manufacturing sector.
Eric Robbins, general manager of Aluma Glass in downtown Kalispell; Spotted Bear Spirits owner Lauren Oscilowski; and Gary Snow, owner of Tabletree Montana, talked about the challenges and successes of operating manufacturing businesses in the Flathead.
Robbins joined the Aluma Glass team after his brother-in-law Curtis Bartel bought the business just over three years ago. What they found at the business — the oldest glass and window company in the Flathead — was extraordinary customer service but bookkeeping systems that hadn’t changed much since Alumna Glass was started in 1954.