Reinventing Upholstery Fabric
Like my earlier feature on American leather, my latest NYT feature looks at how a new company used innovative technology and sophisticated marketing to grow and flourish in a struggling industry. By improving the look and feel of upholstery in hospitals and high-traffic public places, Hi-Tex Inc.'s Crypton fabric technology both furthers and helps satisfy today's aesthetic imperative. My story looks at some of the operational challenges behind the good looks.
If I were writing the story as an economics column, rather than a small business feature, I would have taken a different tack. This is a classic tale of vertical integration, raising interesting Coase-Williamson questions. Why, for instance, does a company need to own the factory and machines in order to pick the people who'll run them? Does it matter that these people are employees? Or, as I suspect, simply that they take pride in their work?