A fired worker at the Taney and Root ball bearing factory kills several workers in the plant cafeteria. This sets off events which draw Jay Taney out of a seemingly failed life into the role of president of the foundering family business. He works by instinct to save the business which traces back to the eighteenth century and is now the last operating factory in a small mill town in northwestern Connecticut. Circumstances and people are against him; he has no experience, a powerful college president brother who wants to sell the company, a lack of capital, a key executive who resents him and wants to run things for himself, a haunting mystery about the cafeteria shooting, a hostile union, and finally a labor strike. Desperate for help, he fortuitously retains Michelle Winters, a consultant who guides the company through a positive transformation and also brings out the best in him.