Fulfilling Dreams and Creating Jobs While Building America

<b class="credit">This Built America/Josh Franer </b>Terry Giddeon of Chance Rides in Kansas. Head over to <a href="http://www.thisbuiltamerica.com" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:This Built America;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">This Built America</a> for the <a href="http://www.thisbuiltamerica.com/kansas/#24" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:full story;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">full story</a>.

For some, it's a dream. To others, a passion project. Whatever the case, there are some rare individuals who get to work at something that brings joy to them every day--and in American manufacturing in 2014, that's an unusually lucky thing.

Sara Baldwin grew up on Virginia's Eastern Shore. Her parents had met, married, and raised a family there. She spent two summers teaching art to local children when she was an undergrad at the University of Pennsylvania.

When she returned to the university to get a master's degree in fine arts, her plans were to become a fine arts painter. Baldwin never thought much about returning to the Eastern Shore, where she now owns and operates New Ravenna Mosaics.

During her second year of graduate school, Baldwin took a trip up to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. Instead of focusing on the art on the walls she found herself captivated by the art on the floor--an ancient mosaic. She was drawn to the beauty made by putting stones and gems together in intricate shapes. Baldwin knew she had found a new passion.

After graduation, she moved to New Orleans to teach art, but still the mosaics stuck in her mind. Struggling to make ends meet in the Big Easy, and increasingly yearning to be closer to family and her roots, Baldwin made a huge life decision. She packed her bags and headed home to the Eastern Shore.

Two years after seeing that mosaic, Baldwin started New Ravenna Mosaics--paying homage to Ravenna, Italy and its thousand-year-old mosaic art--in her parents' Virginia living room.

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Liberty Bottle Works founders Tim Andis and his partner, Ryan Clark, scoured a half-dozen states looking for machines they could repurpose to make a water bottle that would slow down the flow of plastic and infuse their company with a mantra of "reduce, reuse, recycle."

The hunt has paid off. Clark estimates that Liberty Bottleworks has kept 10 million plastic bottles out of landfills in a two-year period. And, to Andis more importantly, the company has brought 42 jobs to his hometown, including skilled jobs for veterans. "Water bottles are just a vehicle for our other goals--creating jobs, conserving resources, protecting the environment and social responsibility. We think we can do well by doing good," Clark says.

For Andis, the picture that made it real for him was watching millions of plastic bottles shipped to Haiti after the earthquake struck in 2010. He also watched as quake victims used cans that once held diesel fuel to collect water from trucks. It was the same year Liberty Bottleworks sold its first bottles.

"I thought, 'If only we could have been in production a year earlier,'" Andis says, maybe the company would have had enough bottles on hand to send to Haiti to help. "It's a small island. We could have done so much good cutting down on waste and helping people with reusable containers for clean water."

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In Kansas, Chance Rides' service product manager, Terry Giddeon, is responsible for the train brand. He grew up just two miles from the park. He can still remember hearing the whistle blow from his bedroom window. In a strange twist of fate, the first C.P. Huntington that Giddeon ever built for Chance--almost 30 years ago--was the replacement locomotive for that childhood train. "Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I'd build the train that Watson Park has now," Giddeon says. "Installing it was the best feeling in the world."

Like any machine, the trains needs constant maintenance, and Giddeon says that there were long periods of time when the Watson Park train just wasn't getting it. Last year, the train was shut down more than it was running. But this year, Giddeon is making sure that doesn't happen again.

He has made the Watson Park train a personal priority of his, working with the park's manager to keep the train running. Giddeon believes that dedication sets Chance apart from its competitors.

"The support is always there," he says. Even if a ride is decades old, Giddeon can get parts for it and even provide a service manual. "The Santa Barbara Zoo just bought another locomotive from us. When they get that level of support, they don't shop around."

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