In 2009 I landed in Detroit and saw a billboard I’ll never forget. I was on my way to FMA's ALAW, the Advanced Laser Applications Workshop, and there was a massive billboard advertising something you rarely if ever see on the interstate. Metal fabricator W Industries was touting its ability to serve sectors like heavy industry and, especially, defense. The implication was clear: Welcome to Detroit; we’re not just the Motor City.
Like Detroit, W Industries succumbed to bankruptcy. As sources told Crain’s Detroit Business in 2011, “the story of W Industries is a classic case of a family-owned business that assumed too much risk too quickly in pursuit of higher revenue and profits.”
The company’s rise and demise shows how reality just doesn’t work like a clean, logical, feel-good storyline. W Industries used to be almost totally reliant on Ford Motor Co., but worked to diversify beyond automotive. Although Detroit seemed to be a one-industry town, W Industries certainly wasn’t going to be a one-industry company.