Launched in 2015 by Ben Waxman and Whitney Reynolds, American Roots is a family run textile business that trains and hires stitchers in Portland Maine, creating American-made polartec fleece apparel. The company works in partnership with Old Port Wool and Textile, another Portland-based textile business owned by Ben’s mother, Dory Waxman. American Roots is a union company, manufacturing and selling 100 percent American-made Polartec outerwear. The owners are committed to paying livable wages and providing benefits to the employees.
“CEI has been instrumental in helping us find and train workers who have become the backbone of American Roots. With the training programs and the microloan CEI provided for sewing machines, American Roots went from concept to reality.”
–Whitney Reynolds, Co-Owner, American Roots
Within the manufacturing sector in Maine, stitchers are in short supply. As a long-standing and successful textile enterprise, Old Port Wool and Textile partnered with CEI to create a training program to assist in building a skilled workforce for its sister company, American Roots. “Working with American Roots and Old Port Wool and Textile to develop a curriculum to train workers for a growing sector in Maine and providing financing for an innovative startup company- this is a great example of how CEI helps to create economic opportunity,” said CEI workforce team member.
To date, three classes with a total of 20 students have completed the stitcher training, with 14 hired by American Roots and Old Port Wool and Textile. While the training program is available to all who are interested in stitching, it has attracted many New Mainers who have arrived as immigrants and refugees with long and successful stitching careers in their home countries. The training includes contextualized English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction provided by Portland Adult Education, and paid on-the-job training. Students hail from a range of countries including Angola, Burundi, Congo, Ethiopia, Egypt and Iraq. “They are incredible human beings,” said Dory, who believes in the opportunity that the American Dream offers. “One of our students lived her whole life in a refugee camp before she moved to the United States,” she said. The stories of these workers are what constitute the dynamic and rich work environment at American Roots.
CEI is working to support a broader group of textile companies by developing an industry-recognized credential for employee training, catalyzing additional funding and growing the textile industry in Maine.
Family & Founders of American Roots