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Twin Bridges, Montana

Economic downturn effects Winston Rod; 11 employees laid off 
By Perry Backus of The Montana Standard

March 12, 2003 

The economic downturn hit home in Twin Bridges recently with the news of layoffs at the Winston Rod Co. 

The company recently laid off 11 employees, including the vice president of sales, chief financial officer and one shipping supervisor, said Winston Rod's President Mike "Woody" Woodard. 

"It's very unfortunate," Woodard said Tuesday. "It was a difficult decision to have to make ... We're very close to our people." 

"Everyone right now is being asked to wear at least two hats," he said. "Our people are stepping up and doing it very well." 

The company makes high-end graphite and bamboo fly-fishing rods. 

Woodard said a slowdown in sales hit the company as the country entered a recession in the spring of 2001. Orders completely stopped immediately after Sept. 11, he said. 

Since then, the company has been "working diligently to come back stronger," he said. 

Winston Rod added more models to its inventory in an effort to attract more business. But even as the company gained a larger portion of the market from its competitors, its overall number of orders continued to drop, said Woodard. 

"We had to configure the company so it more closely matched the reality of the marketplace," he said. 

Winston Rod isn't alone. 

Woodard said he'd heard reports that other fly rod manufacturers have had to lay off employees. 

"The industry has just slowed quite a lot," he said. 

Once the indecision created by the uncertainty of war and a struggling economy pass, Woodard said he believes Winston Rod will be in the right position to rebound. 

Winston Rod has been a cornerstone business for Twin Bridges since 1976, when it moved there. David Ondaatje purchased Winston Rod in 1991. In 1995, it began rolling its own rod blanks after moving into a new facility on the edge of town. 

Woodard said the company employs fewer than 100 people, but would not give the exact number, saying that information is proprietary. 

Copyright Perry Backus and the Montana Standard, reproduced by permission.

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