The Times brings us the story of Watermark Designs, a Brooklyn-based company illuminating the path to success for future American design and production ventures.
The relatively small (45 employee) business once supplied plumbing fixtures to local businesses, moving into upscale markets as its local competition began to get murdered by overseas imports. Six years ago they invested $60,000 in a 3D printer and that, along with a lot of business savvy, help propel them into successful exporting.
These days people use the term "Rapid Prototyping" less than they say "Digital Manufacturing," but it is the former definition that benefits Watermark. They or local clients design high-end luxury fixtures that they can quickly print prototypes of, and once the design is locked in, they start cranking out the product in their East New York factory. With less than 50 employees they couldn't supply Wal-Mart; but what they can do is produce thousands of units that are snapped up by luxury condos and hotels in Shanghai, Hong Kong and wealthy Macau.
While China can clearly outproduce outfits like Watermark, the company has succeeded in part by out-designing Chinese competition.
"The days of mass producing in New York City are gone," [Company President] Mr. Abel said. "If you were producing nuts and bolts by the tens of thousands 50 years ago, you're not going to do it today. But creativity, or uniqueness or design is definitely something that can flourish in New York."