Manufacturer of the Year (Small Company)

Sage Manufacturing Corporation, Bainbridge Island

Manufacturing didn’t cause the Great Recession, but it certainly felt the effects. Now it’s leading the charge out of the downturn, both in Washington and nationally. Manufacturing employment in this state is up by more than 20,000 jobs from a year ago.

Can you make a name for yourself as a small company in the vast world of fishing gear? You can if you’re Sage Manufacturing, a star in the world of fly fishing. Can you really find something new to offer in a well-established category like sport fishing? Yes, again, if you’re Sage.

Founded in 1980, Sage continues to introduce new technology. Its latest product is the One rod, incorporating aerospace-grade carbon fiber in a design that has a smaller diameter and weighs 25 percent less than previous models, while also offering greater casting accuracy.

For 2012, Sage is branching out into clothing, introducing a line of what it calls “technical angling apparel” to keep customers comfortable “fishing flats in the blazing sun to chasing steelhead in an ice-cold river.”

As with other successful companies among this year’s honorees, what’s on the inside at Sage counts as much as its product line. Through application of lean techniques, Sage has cut costs per fly rod by more than 8 percent. Sage reconfigured its production floor to improve work flow and invested in an automated cutting machine to replace hand cutting. Aside from reducing scrap and production time, the switch also eliminated hand injuries and dramatically reduced workers’ comp claims.

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