K’Nex, which makes Tinkertoys and Lincoln Logs as well as its eponymous brightly colored building sets, followed the trend of offshoring in the late 1990s, and by the early 2000s had outsourced most of its toymaking to China.

But by the time Araten arrived at the company in 2005, the long lead time required to ship toys to the United States—coupled with high demand only three months out of the year—was becoming a strain on the business. Catering to the changing tastes of 8-year-olds is a dicey proposition, and product decisions made in January could be yesterday’s news nine months later when the ship pulled into port.

With machines idling at K’Nex’s sister company, Rodon, a plastics manufacturer in Pennsylvania, Araten saw an opening to bring the toy production back home. “We were looking to keep our people employed,” he said.

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