They helped NASA build a helicopter for Mars, but Goodwinds Composites is still a very down to Earth company. When we were looking for a US carbon fiber tube manufacturer for our Cnoc trekking poles, we knew we couldn't do better than a local, family-owned small business with a focus on caring for both people and planet. When we visited their modest factory in Washington, we wanted to get to know our collaborators.
“You know, I’ve got kids,” says Amelia Cook, who owns and operates the Mt. Vernon, Wash. manufacturer with her brother, Leland Holeman. “I want them to have a world to inherit that’s clean and happy and not polluted.”
Growing up in Ilwaco, Washington, the brother and sister duo bought the composites supply arm of a kite store in 2008 and began precision-cutting small diameter carbon and fiberglass tubes. When they noticed a demand for American-made rods as thin as a human hair, they set up their own micro-pultrulsion machine that would allow them to make wrapped carbon tubes on-site.
“We said, ‘Well, let’s figure this out,” Cook says. “‘We can do this, right? We can.’”
The American manufacturer built its reputation on a culture of excellence. “We weren’t just going to make something that was going to compete with Chinese tubes. We really wanted to make sure that we were making things that our customers wanted,” Cook says.
According to Cook, as customers (like Cnoc and NASA) look to replace metal with lighter-weight, less expensive material, they’re also seeking a speedy turnaround that’s only possible with manufacturing on US soil. Located in the Skagit Valley (north of Seattle on the I-5 corridor), Goodwinds is in the center of a national hub for aerospace, marine technology, machining, and composites.
“We don’t need any supply interruptions,” Cook says. “We do our own tooling for that pultrusion machine, we can do some of our tooling for the wrapped carbon tube operation, which is really nice to not have to wait several weeks to get it from somewhere else. And again, it employs people right here.”
For Cook, having enough work to continue to employ folks is the model of a sustainable business. And Goodwinds is as mindful of preserving the environment as it is of its employees.
“If we have hardened resin at the end of the day, which unfortunately we sometimes do, it gets hardened out and it does have to go into landfill. That’s the only place for it,” Cook says. Byproducts are never dumped in a water source, and Cook donates rejected pieces that aren’t wrapped in carbon go to the local schools.
“I think we’re always trying to find ways to repurpose things,” Cook says, with the perfect attitude for creating the primary component of our fully repairable trekking poles. It's our goal, too.
Written by Erin Tillery