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Food and drink companies that are getting America back to work

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    This 12-ounce ceramic mug has been handcrafted just for Starbucks by the American Mug & Stein factory in East Liverpool, Ohio.American Mug & Stein Co.

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    Owner Chris Jennings and the fermenting tanks he crafted to Anthony Road Winery in the Finger Lakes of New York State.Amy Zavatto

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    Hillrock Estate Distillery’s owner Jeff Baker, Master Distiller Dave Pickerell, and assistant distiller Tim Welly in front of their Kentucky-made copper still.AMY ZAVATTO

We’ve all felt the frustration – hearing how jobs are few and far between.  With an unemployment rate hovering above 8 percent and ever more industries moving overseas, there is cause to worry about the decline American production and ingenuity. 

But a few food and drink-related companies may well be starting a trend to bring jobs right back here. From coffee to wine to whiskey, these innovative locally-minded producers are brewing, fermenting, and distilling their way to not just great things to imbibe, but a stronger American economy, too:

Starbucks and American Mug and Stein 

Once called the Pottery Belt of America, the town of East Liverpool, Ohio had only one of its once plentiful pottery factories left in 2012, and that one – American Mug and Stein – was on the verge of extinction, too. But thanks to some forward-thinking on the part of Starbucks, the company is now back in business. 

Starbucks partnered with the high-quality potter to make 20,000 limited release mugs, aptly inscribed with the word “Indivisible” – they sold out immediately. But this was no one-shot deal. Starbucks has hand-made, kiln-fired pottery producer working on their next sturdy sippy device: the Pike Place mug available in the flagship store in Seattle. 

But the caffeinated company didn’t stop there: They’ve also created the new “Indivisible” coffee blend. Available through Labor day, a whopping $5 from each pound sold will go to  the non-profit,  Create Jobs for USA.  

HillRock Distillery and Vendome Copper and Brass Works 

It’s not entirely uncommon for spirits producers to turn to countries like Germany for their column and pot stills used to manufacture the gallons and gallons and gallons of liquor they bottle up and sell every year. 

But when he came on as Master Distiller for the new Hillrock Estate Distillery in Ancram, N.Y., Dave Pickerell (former master distiller for Maker’s Mark bourbon) turned to his home state of Kentucky to get the exact piece of machinery he needed for his amazing small-batch, artisanal whiskey. 

Vendome Copper and Brass Works is located in Pickerell’s home city of Louisville, Kentucky, and made a special-order, hand-hammered copper still to Pickerell’s particular specifications. 

“The company is about five generations, so it’s got long roots in the beverage industry in the U.S. They’re also the largest supplier of copper sheet metal in the country. The work is really artisanal,” he said.

Anthony Road Winery and Vance Metal Fabricators

If there anything you can say with assuredness about New York’s Finger Lake wine region, it’s that a) you’ll find some pretty great Riesling up there in New York’s hinterlands and b) there’s a true feeling of bootstrap community-mindedness among the winemakers in this lake-laden, cold-climate wine-production area. 

But the down-home mentality is starting to spread to other local manufacturers, too. Chris Jennings and his wife invested in Anthony Road winery when their friends, John and Ann Martini, first were getting Anthony Road Winery off the ground 20 years ago. Soon after, the Martinis returned the confidence. 

Instead of purchasing tanks from out-of-state manufacturers, John Martini asked Jennings if his company, Vance Metal Fabricators in Lake Geneva would consider making fermenting tanks for his highly-prized wines. Since then, Vance has expanded to make everything from catwalks to tanks for other local wineries, distilleries, cideries, and beer brewers, too. 

“We’ve refined our own design,” says Jennings, “And now it makes up about 8 percent of our business. We’ve got a nice enclave of happy customers.”