Keeping It Local

Keeping It Local

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Vaienti, Lara

"Here," says West Paw Design president Spencer Williams, grabbing a chunk of fuzz from one of the many machines in the company's warehouse east of Bozeman, "this is where the material gets finalized, ready to stuff the beds." He holds the green, hair-like material in his palm. It's called IntelliLoft-a super-soft "long-staple" made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic bottles-and though much more expensive than traditional bedding materials, the extra cost is well worth it. Not only does it make for some of the comfiest dog beds on the market, but it's extremely environmentally friendly to boot. "Our use of IntelliLoft diverts over 200 tons of plastic bottles from landfills every year," Williams says. And that pretty much sums up one of West Paw's core business values: keep it as Earth-friendly as possible.

That commitment to the environment has guided West Paw from the beginning, long before sustainability became a fashionable buzzword. It started back in 1996. "The original business was called Pets' Pals; that's when I started to learn how to make toys," says Williams. "We were in Livingston, with maybe four or five employees. We started to focus on the design part more, looking at fabrics and trying to expand. We looked into the outdoor market and got ideas for our products from their textiles, colors, and level of quality. We engineered those fabrics to work for pets as well."

As the company grew, it didn't take long for Williams to consider how his manufacturing process was affecting the environment. "We live where we work, and the pristine beauty that surrounds us in the Rocky Mountains gives us reason every day to do our part to protect the environment," he says. "We now do all we can to reduce waste, making sure to cut as much raw product as possible out of every roll of fabric, then reusing the scrap material where we can."

The building itself supports this ethic. Spacious, yet modest and clean, the E. Frontage Rd. factory exudes a sort of natural efficiency. Sewing stations line the floor; layers of vibrantly colored mattresses are stacked everywhere. In the warehouse and adjacent office, West Paw's 30-some employees move to and fro with a sense of casual determination. It's clear they like their jobs, and are devoted to them.

According to Williams, part of that has to do with the company's partial in-house manufacturing and strict use of local suppliers. "By keeping all our manufacturing local" says Williams, "we not only provide great jobs but we get to know each other as friends and family. We work hard to support one another, both on the job and outside the workplace. We pay a fair wage and provide good benefits, such as health insurance, retirement accounts, and paid time off."

Most importantly, every West Paw employee of shares in the success of the company through a profit-sharing program that Williams calls "holystic." The business supports causes that are dear to its employees' hearts by donating money and product and participating in community fundraising events. Williams also believes that the immediate work environment is just as important as the air, water, and wildlife surrounding Bozeman. "We're still a small and very personal company," he says. "The well-being of my workers is also my satisfaction. I like to keep people happy."

For more information on West Paw Design, visit westpawdesign.com.

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