Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Amish Entrepreneurs

My question of “Where are the employees’ cars?” was met with a laugh from Larry Andrews, head of ED in Nappanee, IN, as we walked into Quality Hardwood Sales. The only mode of transportation on the grounds was several bicycles at the entrance.

Devon Hochstetlar and his two pre-teen boys showed me around his plant, which builds wooden cabinet components. He has modern computer controlled sorting equipment that automatically cuts and sorts wood by color and defect. Hochstetlar is Amish and wouldn’t let me take his picture, although I could take as many pictures of the plant and machinery that I wanted. The plant also doesn’t have electricity, being run off of a generator. A phone booth outside of the building allows Devon to call people back who have left voice mails, but he can’t receive a direct call to him.

Andrews explained to me, “We are on the verge of having an all Amish industrial park that is run completely on generators. Most of the plants start at from 4 to 6 am and end their day at around 1 pm, so that the Amish can get home for their chores. Most of the workers are on a piece rate incentive, earning $28 to $32/hour for relatively low skilled work.”

He explained that many of these Amish workers are retiring from the assembly line, as early as in their mid 40s. Many are setting up their own entrepreneurial businesses, a huge boost for Nappanee.

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