BROOKS, Maine, (WABI) - There's a manufacturing business on Route 7 in Brooks that started three and a half decades ago focused on farming and the dairy industry.
Thomas Bandsaw Mills is built on hard work and the ability to adapt.
"I started welding when I was six. I started working in the shop at 13, summers, weekends, and I always worked here." Jon Thomas learned the business and his work ethic from his father Dale, who started the family business 35 years ago. "My Dad walked into town in 1957 and got a job manufacturing farm equipment, and he worked there for 25 years. In 1982, he bought out the farm equipment aspect of that business and started Dale A. Thomas and Sons incorporated."
And it was all started inside the small quonset hut at the bottom of the hill on Route 7 in Brooks.
"Dad did all of the design work and fabrication and outgoing sales and deliveries, kind of doing everything. There isn't one thing that he did or I do, we kind of do it all," said Jon.
In 1982, there were about 1600 working dairy farms in Maine and their early business was manufacturing for those farms. Now there are less than 400 in the state. "With that industry dwindling down to what it is, we have to diversify, and what we diversified into was actually manufacturing saw mills and edgers and accessories for tractors and stuff like that and we've advanced into that field, and we're always looking for new things to go into or build or anything like that."
Jon bought the business from his father in 2007 and expanded it, not only the building, but what they offer while keeping the same quality. Now he has five employees, and the products all start with raw steel. Everything else can be ironed out along the way. "A lot of times people will just come with an idea and just say, 'This is what I'd like to have, can you do it?' And then I have to sit down and design it out, figure out what will work, what won't work, and adapt the machine to be able to work. When it goes out, it obviously has to work, so you've got to figure out whatever that is to make it so that it's useable," said Jon. "It's the joy of manufacturing and actually being able to physically make something that somebody's going to be able to have for, really these machines we've had them out for 20 years and they're still going strong. I mean I honestly feel they'll be around long after I'm gone, so to be able to build something that's going to last like that...it's very rewarding. That's what it's really all about."
One of his employees is 18-year-old Jonathan Thomas, who's now working alongside his father and learning the business. Jon feels his son is the company's future. "We're looking at new products, we're looking at doing new designs, we're working with a company doing engineering, so we're trying to advance the business now so with him coming in to it, obviously that adds more strength to the company, so we want to grow the company and what I would like to see is him continue along with that."
To find out more about Thomas Bandsaw Mills, visit their facebook page, or you can go to their website, www.ThomasBandsawMills.com.
You can see all of their bandsaw mills and other products.