Those sneaky Americans have done it again. After years of floundering in a tide of Japanese imports -- cars, copiers, computers, cameras, you name it -- the old U.S. of A. has finally found a way to strike back.

With chopsticks.

In August, the nation's first major chopstick factory commenced operations in the secluded, rural town of Velarde, N. Mex. The manufacturer, New Mexico Wood Products Inc., plans to export most of the chopsticks to Japan, hitting the Japanese where they least expect it. Company president Wiley Homesley is reluctant to discuss the brilliant scheme. Contacted by INC. one afternoon during the company's start-up stage, he said only, "After today, I'm about ready to quit."

But other sources indicate that this is the biggest thing to hit Velarde in years. "It's been all over the radio," says a telephone operator.

"They're going to employ a lot of people in this area -- possibly as many as 80," says Jeanette Quintana, membership secretary of the Chamber of Commerce in nearby Espanola. (Velarde, it turns out, doesn't have a Chamber of Commerce. In fact, Velarde doesn't have much of anything besides a police station, a fire station, and a general store.) "That will really help the employment situation around here," Quintana says. "The only other big industry is the Los Alamos labs."