It would be easy to get the impression that manufacturing jobs are a thing of the past. But it’s not necessarily true.

While the job loss in traditional industries has been relentless and severe, there are still new industries appearing that have the potential to generate good jobs producing value-added products.

One bright spot of the manufacturing economy is working with textiles, and a growing number of small outfits are producing clothing, down comforters and outdoor gear in Maine.

These are jobs that can pay well and provide health care benefits. They require some specialized training, but not advanced education or language skills. They are exactly the kinds of good jobs that have been disappearing from the economy.

Like every sector of the Maine economy, the No. 1 thing holding back growth is a shortage of labor. Which is what makes Old Port Wool & Textile School for Stitchers, a free sewing school in Westbrook, such a welcome addition.

The school was started by Dory Waxman, owner of the Old Port Wool & Textile Co., with the cooperation of other local manufacturers, who have hired graduates.

It relies on grant funding to operate, and it recently received important accreditations from the state Department of Labor and Maine Quality Counts that will allow it to access additional funds. Waxman is applying for nonprofit status, which will allow it to access more funding, preparing more people for the workforce. Waxman said the new company would be called “Common Threads of Maine.”

“There’s a big need for textile operators in Maine. This is something that we can bring back home, and that’s what it’s all about,” Waxman said. “But we need to make it financially sound so we can just do it and grow it.”

Most of the school’s students are new immigrants, including refugees and asylum seekers. A stable manufacturing job can help a family with few resources establish themselves in a new country. According to federal labor data, there were 630 sewing machine operators in Maine in 2017 with an hourly mean wage of $13. A dependable workforce can give small companies the confidence they need to grow.

It’s easy to count the jobs that have disappeared over the decades, and harder to foresee what’s going to come next. But there is good reason to believe that with the right workforce, Maine manufacturers can take on a bigger piece of this marketplace, and bring money into the state’s economy by creating value-added products that can be sold around the world.

Investing in people, enabling them to move up to good paying jobs, is the best way to build an economy. Waxman has taken an important step in the right direction and efforts like this deserve the public’s support.

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