Beth Macy explores the takeaways she learned from writing “Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local — and Helped Save an American Town.” The book set out to answer two questions: What is the untold aftermath of offshoring some 5 million manufacturing jobs? And was there another way? Drawing upon two years of research, including meticulous reporting and hundreds of interviews with everyone from displaced workers to American and Chinese CEOs, Macy tells the story of two factory towns in Virginia, run largely by different branches of the same family tree. One branch offshored nearly all its domestic production, putting 8,500 people out of work. The other successfully kept its flagship factory going. What are the lessons we can draw from these two business/family stories?
Drawing upon a quarter-century of reporting from one of the most segregated cities in the South, journalist Beth Macy explains the beauty of getting outside your ZIP code in the workplace, in your community and in the global economy. Based on interviews with a disparate set of people from displaced workers living in rural trailer parks to Somali Bantu refugees living in public housing to Mexican migrant workers who split their time between two very different worlds, Macy explains the importance of bridge-building across lines of race, socioeconomics, geography and religion — and traces how we’re all connected in this globalized world, whether we realize it or not. As social media makes an even greater presence in our lives, it’s more important now than ever to engage with people living outside our social and virtual worlds.
Beth Macy is the author of the Lukas Prize-winning Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local — and Helped Save an American Town, published in July 2014 by Little, Brown and Company. New York Times critic Janet Maslin called the nonfiction narrative “an illuminating, deeply patriotic David vs. Goliath book.”
A longtime reporter who specializes in outsiders and underdogs, Macy has won more than a dozen national journalism awards, including a Nieman Fellowship for Journalism at Harvard in 2010. Among the marginalized groups she has chronicled for newspapers and magazines are Hispanic immigrants, African refugees, caregivers for the elderly, veterans with PTSD and displaced factory workers.
Factory Man traces the aftereffects of globalization in small communities throughout America. Macy hones in on the outlier story of John Bassett III, who used grit, cunning and sheer will to compete against China — to keep his Galax, Virginia, factory going when almost every other wood-furniture maker in America closed up shop and imported cheaper imports instead instead. By unveiling shocking truths about American business, Factory Man raises a flag for the return of made-in-America products.
Macy has been published in Oprah magazine, Parade, The New York Times, Salon and Christian Science Monitor. For two decades, she was the families beat reporter at The Roanoke (Va.) Times, where many of her longer pieces originated.
Her approach to storytelling: Report from the ground up, establish trust, be patient, find stories that tap into universal truths. Eat the posole. Get out of your ZIP code. To do good work, be a human first.