In a faraway country, an orphan, named Shin Ok-soon, was put on a plane to the USA leaving all that she knew behind; sights, sounds, smells. That plane took her to Minneapolis International Airport, and there she became Kim Annette Cox. Kim met her adoptive family, former Minnesota Viking, Fred Cox, his wife, Elayne, and their three biological children (Darryl, Susan and Fred). I am that orphan and this is part of my story.


My life in the United States began on October 21, 1970. I moved from a big city to a small hobby farm with my new family. Days were spent going to school, picking weeds in the strawberry patch, playing with farm animals, and watching dad play football on TV. I didn’t think about how different I looked from other kids at school; brown skin, slanted eyes, black hair. That is until someone made fun of me, or I saw the one other Korean adoptee at my school. People always seemed to get us mixed up, even though we didn’t look alike. Several times, I told boys that my dad was Minnesota Viking Fred Cox. They all thought I was lying because he wasn’t Korean. International adoption wasn’t as common back in the late 60’s and early 70’s as it is today. I would continue through life like anyone else- graduating from high school, getting married, and raising a family. Having a family was always important to me. My children are my only known blood relatives. Through adoption I lost all connection to my biological family. I’d been led to believe they either lost me or gave me up. To me, my family tree started when I had children; Sara, Peter, Kendra and Alec. They are my greatest treasures. One day, my dad was visiting when my eldest daughter went stomping to her room and slammed the door. My dad just laughed and said, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” I reminded him that I never stomped to my room or slammed the door, at least not often. But that one comment, from the most influential person in my life, changed everything. If my children were like me then who was I like? What tree did I fall from? Thus began my search for my birth mother. 

I didn’t realize that I would begin a search for cultural identity. It was 1998 and the internet was still on dial up. The internet opened a whole new community for me and led me to the conference, The Gathering of the First Generation of Adult Korean Adoptees. I remember standing in the hotel elevator, looking at the other passengers, realizing that we were all Korean! I had never had that experience before, and it was empowering. As the event’s title indicates, it was the first time that adult Korean adoptees gathered, from all over the world, to share our experiences. In our time together we learned we had many similarities. We were raised in small communities where we were the only minorities. Our families were religious. Many of us had suffered from some type of abuse; sexual, physical, and mental. We didn’t realize that there were so many of us, spread across the world, away from our motherland. I returned to my family excited and confused. The first 25+ years of my life I lived a Caucasian-American life. Once I was surrounded by people who looked like me, I started to realize that I wasn’t white. I noticed that I was the only person of color at the grocery store, at church, at my kids’ school. It was as if everything I had adapted to had changed. I felt like an outsider, and I was angry. With my newfound identity, I thought it would be fun to go to a Korean market in the cities and surround myself with people who looked like me. I even tried some kimchee. Walking into that market was like walking into a foreign country. Because I looked Korean, they greeted me in Korean and I felt shame at my inability to respond as expected. I said, “Hello.” They gave me a puzzled look in return. It was followed by them putting their head down as if I didn’t exist. I had no idea what to buy. I couldn’t read the packages, and I certainly was not going to bring more attention to myself by asking for help. I decided to buy some rice, kimchee, and noodles. I had no idea there were so many varieties of rice yet none of them were Minute Rice. I was nervous to check out, because they may try and speak to me, and I would not have a clue as to what they were saying. I purchased my things, went to my car and cried. What I thought would be a grand adventure turned out to be an eye-opening experience. I did not belong to my small white community. I was not accepted by Korean Nationals. Adoption had created a new community for me; Korean Adoptees. This later expanded into International Adoptees.

Shin Ok-Soon Mug Shot

Searching Seoul

While at The Gathering I met some adoptees who were of my generation. We planned a return trip to our motherland in search of our birth families. We contacted the media in Korea, and locally, to see if they were interested in our story. I was adopted to Minnesota, where there are over 20,000 Korean Adoptees (Minnesota Ranks #1 in the US for children adopted from Korea), and my dad was a well-known figure. As a former Viking who played in 4 Super Bowls, invented the Nerf Football, and is still the Vikings all-time leading scorer we thought we might attract some local interest.

A show called On the Road with Jason Davis contacted me, and the TV station sent Jason and his cameraman to Korea with myself and some of others. He filmed a special documentary segment called Searching Seoul that would air twice. Once in 2000 and again, years later, to see how our lives had changed from that trip.

He won a regional Emmy Award for the segment. I remember thinking, “Why do I want to do this? Why do I want to put my life out there? Then I stopped thinking about myself and, instead, thought about all the others whom I had met. Then I knew that this was part of God’s plan for me.

After Searching Seoul aired, a couple of Korean culture camps and parent support groups had reached out to me. They asked if I would come share my story with them. I was nervous. I did not want to pretend that my voice represented how all adoptees felt, especially since I was still trying to figure out my own cultural identity. I knew nothing about it, so I looked at this as a way we could learn together. Afterall, they had Korean roots as well. When I was young, my parents took my sister and I to a Korean school and I learned how to sing a couple songs. I don’t remember much, so this opportunity was a fantastic way for my children and I to learn more together.

Kamp Kimchee

That summer, I packed up the kids and headed to Kamp Kimchee, a Korean culture camp, for the week. I shared my experience with the adoptive parents. I was the classroom mentor for the high school students. My children attended classes with the other students. The unique thing about Kamp Kimchee was that classes were for Korean adoptees and their American-born siblings. It was a family camp where everyone was included. One of the adopted students told me that my children were the first students allowed who were not Korean or part of a family created by adoption. It was a little odd for my children at first. They were neither Korean adopted nor the sibling of a child who had been adopted. They made friends quickly and the families were so happy to have an older adoptee, who was also a parent, involved with the camp. We continued to be involved for another four or five years, until summer sports took over. During the years at camp, my kids would learn tae kwon do, how to sing the national anthem of Korea, fan dancing, and how to cook Korean food! I bought their first hanboks there and made lifelong friends. I am forever grateful to the families of Kamp Kimchee for helping me teach my children about Korea.

Fast Forward 15 Years

I have returned to Korea twice. During my trips to Korea, I helped two other adoptees reunite with their birth families and discover their culture. I did some searching while I was there but concluded I would never find anything. There were no records from the first year of my life. My visits to Korea were bittersweet but enjoyable just the same. I always traveled with other Korean adoptees because we shared the same narrative. We didn’t really belong, wherever we were. 

Discovering my Korean self would eventually lead to the end of my first marriage, after 20 years and 4 children. I married young and didn’t know who I was.  When I became comfortable in my identity, it was hard on the marriage. I had changed. It was no one’s fault, just a set of circumstances that were beyond our control. I am remarried now, and adoption has impacted my life once again. Through marriage, I became a bonus mom (aka stepmom) to 3 children. One of them is also adopted.  

Bonus Son Adoptee

My bonus son, Jackson, is biracial and was adopted domestically. We still have many things in common though. Society sees us differently than who we are due to having brown skin, dark hair, and distinct cultural features. I like to think it is easier for him now than it was for me. He is being raised in a diverse area, adoption is more prevalent now, and he has me (a pioneer of transracial adoption). We don’t talk about culture or being adopted yet we are two peas in a pod. There is an unspoken understanding that we have about our uniqueness, and how we navigate through our adoption journey, that unites us.


I remember when I was a teenager. My dad would smile, put his arm around me, and tell me I had won the adoption lottery when I joined his family. Of course, I would roll my eyes and agree. As I look back at my adoption journey, I can say that being Korean and adopted no longer consumes me like it once did. I have accepted that I will probably never find my birth family. I am, however, blessed to have been adopted into a wonderful family. I’m equally blessed to have created my own family. I now walk into the Korean Market with confidence, using the three Korean words I know, and a smile on my face. My family tree has expanded with the arrival of my grandson, Milo. He is now the same age as I was when I first arrived. I love to watch him and ask myself if I was like that when I was his age, traveling from one continent to another. All I know is that, when I look in the mirror, I am at peace with the face staring back at me.

FABTECH is the North American metal fabricating industry’s premier event every year. It is run in partnership by some of the biggest trade associations in the sector. The intent of the show is to bring buyers and sellers into a convenient venue to conduct business, make connections, share ideas, AND learn. The event occurs annually in the US rotating between Chicago, Atlanta, and Las Vegas. An identical event takes place in Mexico annually on a rotation between Monterrey and Mexico City. FABTECH Canada is a biennial event exclusive to Toronto. You can learn more about FABTECH at your convenience. FlexTrades was in Atlanta for the entire event last week. We wanted to share some of our biggest takeaways with you. 



Lead times were such a giant part of so many conversations at FABTECH 2022 that they almost got their own place on this list. The concern with how to deal with long lead times from suppliers and reduce lead times for customers is one of many primary drivers for the prevalence of automation at FABTECH this year. From reducing injuries to improving workflows to increasing efficiency, it seems most exhibitors and attendees consider a robot or cobot to be at least a partial solution for their problems. Automation of every kind was on abundant display. This great highlight video does a fantastic job of showing you as many of them as possible in 90 seconds! 



It’s no secret that consumer taste is changing. No longer is it enough to deliver the best product or the best price. The market has evolved. Manufacturers still need to deliver on quality and price point, but people buy for the story now too. At least part of that story has become focused on sustainability. Mainly, end users want to know how you’re improving the environment of your facility for employees and how you’re maintaining the environment for your communities and consumers. FABTECH 2022 taught us that producers who don’t already have a focus on sustainability need to develop one quickly or they’ll be left behind. Meanwhile, companies who have been early adopters of processes with an ESG and sustainability focus are already reaping the benefits. 



We’ve been saying for years that today’s facilities are no longer our fathers factories. The image of the dark, dirty, dangerous facility that news reels from the 50s and 60s accustomed us to are just no longer accurate. That doesn’t mean our current workforce doesn’t want manufacturers to continue to move the line forward regarding safety. Filtration systems to improve air quality, lighting advances to improve visibility, lift assist systems of all kinds, and even drones to inspect confined spaces were evident in displays or conversations at FABTECH this year. This prevalence indicates that an improved safety focus is something that all generations currently represented in the workforce agree upon. COVID protocols and practices brought safety front of mind for all of us (finally), and that’s here to stay. 


3D Printing 

Recent studies tell us that a full third of manufacturers are putting additive manufacturing on their short lists for investment. FABTECH 2022 echoed these findings in a big way. Additive was everywhere across this year’s expo. There were new powders to create metals, new machines to layer them, and everything in between. This expo made a point of teaching the industry that additive processes are much more than just 3D printing these days. 



The lack of available talent in the skilled trades pipeline to manufacturing was as big a topic as it has been in recent years. That has traditionally been a huge driver for interest in automation. This year, especially among keynote speaker panels, we’ve heard a bigger emphasis placed on the role we play as employers in developing the workforce. These presentations are intended to make deciders across the industry aware that younger employees want the same things previous generations wanted. Millennial and Gen Z jobseekers are just willing to ask for it up front, and they’re capable of doing their own research to know if your competition is offering it. Panelist Will Healy III put it best when he said, “If you’re hiring a welder for $15 base rate and you offer full benefits but McDonalds down the street is hiring people for $15 base rate and full benefits AND a free cheeseburger at lunch – what you’re really competing with is a cheeseburger. You need to think differently and bring more to the table than the competition if you want to win.” 



The next FABTECH happens in Mexico this coming March. But we don’t want you to wait until then to see and learn more! If you found this content interesting and informative, we put out new industry content all the time. Check out our YouTube page for yet to be released interviews we captured in Atlanta. You can always follow FlexTrades on your social media platform of choice or check out our blog page to make sure you don’t miss out. And, of course, if you have other ideas for topics you’d like to know more about, or questions for FlexTrades, just send them to our Writing Team and we’ll be happy to cover them in a future article or video.

There are a lot of things made in America and FlexTrades helps make them. FlexTrades has a presence in many, many states across the United States. We work with manufacturers of all types, and we employ many talented engineers and skilled trades personnel. American manufacturing is important to us and we’re doing what we can to power manufacturing nationwide. As a result, we thought we’d share some great products manufactured here in the United States! Go American Made. 


Please keep in mind, according to the Federal Trade Commission, the term “Made in the USA” means “all or virtually all” products are made in the USA. As a result, some of these companies may outsource materials or some components but the actual product is made here in the United States of America.  


Alabama – Cougar Claw Tree Stands 

Cougar Claw Tree Stands are made in Foley, Alabama. This company not only makes the product in Alabama, but they also extract the aluminum needed to make the product from northern Alabama.  


Alaska – Bambino’s Baby Food 

Manufacturing in Alaska can be hard to do since most products are exported and that requires additional costs. However, Bambino’s Baby Food has found a way to do it. Bambino’s uses certified organic produce from Alaska farms as well as sustainable Alaskan seafood to produce their product. All products are manufactured in Anchorage, Alaska. 


Arizona – Nest Bedding 

Nest Bedding manufactures their products in Phoenix, Arizona. Not only does Nest Bedding manufacture in the US, but they also use USA sourced materials.  


Arkansas – Allied Cycle Works 

Allied Cycle Works is 100% made in America in Rogers, Arkansas. They not only manufacture and assemble in America, but they also design and source raw materials from the USA. Check them out! They care not only about their product, but also about the people who make their product.  


California – American Giant 

American Giant makes high quality, durable (not disposable, as they say) clothing, in the United States. 


Colorado – Bell Mason Jars 

Ball Mason Jars has been manufacturing glass jars in Broomfield, Colorado for 130 years!  


Connecticut – Atlas Cutting Tools 

Atlas Cutting Tools has 40+ years of experience manufacturing high quality cutting tools for CNC machining. They’re manufacturing in the United States for American manufacturers. Atlas Cutting Tools is located in Waterbury, Connecticut. 


Delaware – James Thompson & Co Inc.  

James Thompson & Co. Inc. was established in 1860 making their presence in the textile industry a long one (162 years to be exact). Check out the link to read the history of this company – it’s very interesting! The Dying and Finishing operations are located in Greenwood, Delaware. 


Florida – Beard & Company 

Beard & Company makes high quality beard, skin, and haircare products in Apopka, Florida. All products are handmade!  


Georgia – All American Khakis 

All American Khakis are made in Thomson, Georgia. This is a family-owned company with the goal to bring apparel manufacturing back to the United States. 


Hawaii – Island Slipper 

Similar to Alaska, manufacturing in Hawaii is difficult because of export costs and logistics. However, in Oahu, there is one company making slippers (in other words, sandals) by hand. Since 1946, Island Slipper has been making slippers out of green and healthy materials and production techniques. 


Idaho – Buck Knives 

Buck Knives has a great story that dates back to 1902 and is currently operated by a fourth-generation family member. Buck Knives are manufactured in Post Falls, Idaho. 


Illinois – First-Light USA 

First-Light USA makes high performance tactical flashlights in their facility in Seymour, Illinois. 

90% of the materials and components used in the flashlights are sourced within the United States. 


Indiana – Suns Out 

Suns Out manufactures their puzzles in Marion, Indiana. Originally outsourced to other U.S. manufacturers, Suns Out most recently invested in their own facility, and started in-house production of their puzzles in 2020. 


Iowa – Jon Kammerer 

In a town with a population of just over 9,000 residents, you can find a craftsman like no other. Jon Kammerer hand makes acoustic and electric guitars. What a skill! 


Kansas – Yoder Smokers 

Yoder Smokers are American made grills and smokers. All of these are handcrafted in Hutchinson, Kansas, which many consider to be one the most famous states for BBQ. 


Kentucky – Briggs & Stratton 

85% of small engines produced by Briggs & Stratton are made in the United States. This plant opened in 1985 and manufactured their 85 millionth (yes, millionth) engine in 2017. 


Louisiana – Zapp’s Potato Chips 

Zapp’s Potato Chips have quite the origin story and flavor options. These delicious snacks are made in Gramercy, Louisiana. 


Maine – Pride Golf Tee 

John Lloyd Wright, son of famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright is the founder of Logs. After nearly 60 years of being made in China, Lincoln Logs are now made in Burnham, Maine (a state known for its lumber industry) by a wooden golf-tee manufacturer,  Pride Golf Tee. 


Maryland – Poze Candle Co.  

Poze Candle Co. handcrafts and hand pours luxury soy candles (with wooden wicks) in Laurel, MD. Soy wax contains nothing artificial like paraffin wax, making it non-toxic and better for the environment. 


Massachusetts – Randolph USA 

In a family-owned and operated factory in Randolph, Massachusetts, Randolph USA makes superb sunglasses. It all started in 1973, when a former Royal Air Force navigator and machinist immigrated to America and opened doors to a factory to produce an eyewear (sunglass) company. The company built the machines that make the glasses with one goal in mind- make a product for the toughest of tough: Aviator sunglasses for the US military and the US Department of Defense. 


Michigan – American Plastic Toys 

American Plastic Toys produce just that- plastic (but safe) toys and have been doing so since 1932.Although Michigan is not the only state this company manufactures in, it should be noted that all plastic and colorants are purchased domestically (within the US). Less than 4% of toy content is imported (mostly sound components and fasteners) and only 9% of total products have imported components. Wow! 


Minnesota – Duluth Pack 

Duluth Pack is THE oldest canvas and leather bag and pack manufacturer in the United States. Since 1882, this company has been making high-quality, hand crafted canvas and leather gear. As you might have guessed, this company is based out of Duluth, Minnesota.  


Mississippi – C&W Companies 

C&W Companies is a woman-owned enterprise since 1990 and is located in Rienzi, MS. C&W is one of the largest contract embroidery firms in the US and operates in the screen print industry. 


Missouri – Red Wing Shoe Company 

Technically, the family-owned Red Wing Shoe Company has two locations – Red Wing, Minnesota as well as Potosi, Missouri. Since their inception in 1905, every pair of Red Wing boots has been handcrafted. All the tanning, cutting, fitting, lasting, bottoming and finishing is done by hand, and in total, it takes 230 different steps to make them complete! 


Montana – Fisher Blacksmithing 

Fisher Blacksmithing is a rare find these days. Owner Tule Fisher is a blacksmith who hand forges gardening tools in Bozeman, Montana. You’ve got to check these out. They look useful and they’re pieces of art!  


Nebraska – Accu-Strike  

Accu-Strike weld helmets are made in America in Ord, Nebraska. A welder made these helmets, so you know they’ve got to be good. This producer guarantees that not only is the Accu-Strike helmet dark before the arc is struck, it’s also a clear lens to view through when grinding and/or positioning parts. A very useful tool for all welder fabricators. 


Nevada – American Barbell 

American Barbell has been making gym equipment for over 40 years. You can find them in commercial gyms, military bases, and strength conditioning facilities domestically and internally. It’s located in Las Vegas, Nevada. 


New Hampshire – New Hampshire Clocks 

The title is in the name. New Hampshire Clocks are high-end clocks made in Franklin, New Hampshire. Although not all components come from American suppliers, it’s New Hampshire Clock’s goal to get there. The US region of New England mills, handcrafts, and finishes the wood. The glass comes from New York and the handles come from Michigan. Additional parts come from Wisconsin, California, and Massachusetts. 


New Jersey – WeatherWool 

WeatherWool is a small family company making great outerwear out of their own home. They operate out of South Orange, New Jersey. 100% of their processing operations are American including the ranchers, the shearers, the truckers, the engineers, the dying, scouring, and milling. It even includes those who supply threads, buttons, zippers, etc. What an accomplishment! 


New Mexico – Golightly Cashmere 

Golightly Cashmere is craft knitted in Santa Fe, New Mexico by true artisans. Not only is Golightly Cashmere proud of their product, but they are also very proud of their ability to sustainably source ethically produced cashmere in the United States. 


New York – Cutco 

Cutco is the largest manufacturer of kitchen cutlery in North America. They have been manufacturing for over 70 years in their Olean, New York factory. Cutco is proud of their American-made product, they have a “Forever Guarantee.” If for any reason their customer is not happy with the knives, correction is always taken (sometimes replacement). They do free sharpening as well! 


North Carolina – American Giant 

American Giant makes high quality, durable (not disposable, as they say) clothing in the United States. Much of the company’s supply chain sources and manufacturing is in North Carolina with additional manufacturing and sourcing in California and South Carolina. I will enthusiastically endorse American Giant. They have GREAT clothing, and I highly recommend you check them out! 


North Dakota – Dot’s Homestyle Pretzels  

Dot’s Homestyle Pretzels has a great story. I can’t leave them out even though they have bakeries in two states now. Dot’s started with Dorothy Henke. Dorothy lived in North Dakota, but she spent winters in Arizona. A cousin of Dorothy’s husband asked if Dorothy could bring 30-40 bags of seasoned pretzels as gifts for her clients. Over the course of time, and even more interesting stories, Dot was able to grow the business into what it is today.  


Ohio – American Mug & Stein Company 

American Mug & Stein Company is located in East Liverpool, Ohio where they hand cast and glaze coffee mugs, steins, and other customized items. It makes sense that American Mug & Stein Company is located there. It was once considered the “Pottery Capital of the World.” 


Oklahoma – Cookshack 

Cookshack is a company making headway in the world of grills and smokers. Located in Ponca City, Oklahoma Cookshack connected with a Kansas BBQ entrepreneur called Fast Eddy. Between the years and experience, they created a “Fast Eddy” grill, now one of their most common units. 


Oregon – Leatherman 

I am not surprised one of the most versatile tools comes from Portland, Oregon. Even though the Leatherman brand and multi-tools are used all over the world, they have always been made in Portland. 


Pennsylvania – Slinky 

Every Slinky in the world is made in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. Check out the story of the Slinky here! 


Rhode Island – Seaside Casual 

Seaside Casual has been making outdoor furniture for over 25 years from Coventry, Rhode Island. This company is a big believer in US manufacturing, so they do their best to source from US partners. If they can’t, they clearly let you know what furniture components they haven’t yet found a US partner to produce. 


South Carolina – Kentwool 

Kentwool socks are made in Pickens, South Carolina from Merino Wool. It all started during a game of golf. The vision for better socks, a need for better socks. Now, PGA Tour caddies and players favor these socks. 


South Dakota – The James Valley Co. 

The product line at The James Valley Co. makes sense considering its location in Mellette, South Dakota. Although a unique blend of products, they really tie together. The first products for the hunter in you are scents (deer, elk, moose, bear). Got a favorite dog you like to hunt with? James Valley Co. has treats. And after a long day out tracking, cook up something tasty with the James Valley Co. barbeque sauce. 


Tennessee – Lodge Cast Iron 

Lodge Cast Iron in South Pittsburg, Tennessee has been making cookware and cookware accessories since 1896. To make this classic, timeless, sturdy cookware, Lodge operates two foundries in this small town (population just over 3,000). 


Texas – Stetson 

Stetson hats have quite the history on how they came to be. What they are now is iconic. From 1865 until now, Stetson hats have been a part of the American image. At their factory in Garland, TX there are 200 workers and roughly one million felt and straw hats produced every year, with a typical hat requiring 100 sets of hands for making and shaping. The felting process occurs in Longview, Texas. 


Utah – Liberty Safe 

Liberty Safe in Payton, Utah is the #1 producer of gun safes, fire safes, commercial safes, and home safes – all since it was first founded in 1988. 95% of Liberty Safe’s products are made in the United States and all materials are American made steel. On top of that, Liberty Safe has an environmentally safe paint system AND recycles the overspray from their powder coating booth.  


Vermont – Cobble Mountain Hammock 

In a world of automation, it is quite rare to see handmade items. However, Cobble Mountain Hammock, in East Corinth, Vermont, still makes all their products in just that way. Production occurs in a century old bobbin mill with local employees. Additionally, the oak used for the hammocks is harvested from sustainable forests and the rope comes from Tennessee.  


Virginia – American Merchant 

American Merchant is located in Bristol, Virginia where they weave, dye, and finish raw yarn into premium bath towels. Every towel uses 100% US grown cotton. (Note: America is one of the largest producers of cotton in the world). 


Washington – Hammerless Impact Technology 

Hammerless Impact Technology (H.I.T) makes just that – hammerless nail sets, pin punches, and roll pins. They are based out of Spokane, WA. 


West Virginia – Fiesta Tableware 

Fiesta Tableware in Newell, West Virginia has been manufacturing its very popular dinnerware since 1871! Fun fact – the factory is so old (19th century old), manufacturing workers have made claims reporting ghostly phenomena. Reports include everything from hearing footsteps, experiencing tugs on their hair, and ghostly figures showing their presence. 


Wisconsin – Sussex Injection Molding 

Sussex Injection Molding has been headquartered and manufacturing in Sussex, Wisconsin for over 40 years. They serve the medical plastic injection molding industry among many others. Sussex does everything from engineering to molding to post-molding value add. 


Wyoming – Marc Taggart & Co. 

If you’re looking for unique furniture pieces, go no further than Marc Taggart & Co. They are based in Cody, Wyoming. This company makes their product from ethically sourced material in the American heartland.