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Work starting soon on new plant

J.C. Egnew reveals more information on new jobs

By Greg Bird

Last week’s announcement that the United States Army had selected Fibrotex USA Inc. and Outdoor Venture Corporation to produce a lightweight camouflage netting system in Stearns potentially means the addition of up to 350 new jobs for the area.
This week the Voice sat down with Outdoor Venture Corporation CEO J.C. Egnew to learn more about the deal, and what were some of the factors that brought OVC and Fibrotex together.
“McCreary County has been the center of our universe,” Egnew said. “We have been here for 46 years, and it has been a really good environment.”
“This is a game changer in so many ways, but I knew it would help this community.”
The process leading up to the announcement was long and arduous Egnew said. Two years of travel, negotiations and planning were needed to cement all the factors in place.
OVC’s history in production played a significant role in bringing the Stearns-based company to the eyes of their partner.
“Our most important capital has always been our good reputation,” he said. “We have been able to produce quality work with on-time delivery. They saw it was a good fit for both companies.”
He stated there were three foreign-based companies with the technology capable of producing the multi-spectral camouflage who needed a U.S.- based company to partner with to land the contract. All three companies reached out to OVC to partner with. Representatives from the local company traveled, sometimes overseas, to meet with each, and eventually decided to work with Fibrotex, based out of Israel, who appeared to have the better product.
“As fate would have it, we ended up with the right partner,” he said.
Once the partnership was secured, Egnew was able to entice the new company to locate in Stearns, securing a long-term arrangement that could grow even bigger.
“McCreary County has been a really good environment for us,” he said. “It became clear to our partners that the benefits of choosing to locate here outweighed the costs of a big city.”
Egnew also said OVC’s history with production of military tents, airbags and other products played a big factor in the partnership.
“There are a lot of similarities to the airbag business,” he said. “Both are focused on saving lives and are tech-driven. It is very well suited to our existing operations.”
The special camouflage netting system that will be manufactured in Stearns is a response to the growing need to protect personnel and equipment from real-time intelligence-gathering sources.

“Drones were a real game changer for this industry,” he said.
In the past military operations had to rely on satellite imagery to gather information on locations of potential targets. Sometimes that information would be hours old before it was able to be processed and disseminated to the needed people. Now, with drone technology and a good camera, that information can be gathered in real-time.
Fibrotex and OVC will produce next generation, state-of-the-art ULCANS (Ultra Lightweight Camouflage Netting System) for the Army that not only uses camouflage to hide troops during the daylight hours, but also conceals them from detection by night-vision, thermal imaging devices, and other battlefield sensors.
With the 10-year contract in place, Fibrotex and OVC are well poised to continue growing.
“If things go well, this would become their world headquarters,” Egnew said.
The availability of a manufacturing facility ready for the company to move right in to certainly helped.
The old Monticello Manufacturing building, located adjacent to OVC’s central office had been vacant for two years since ArmorShield moved out in 2016.
Egnew said OVC acquired the building after ArmorShield left and began making repairs, including installing a new roof. A grant through Rural Development also allowed for the installation of energy-efficient lighting, windows and HVAC systems, to prepare the site for future opportunities.
“They don’t happen over night, and they don’t happen every day, but it is about being ready to seize the opportunity the moment it comes along,” Egnew said. “You have to keep your eyes open.”
Fibrotex will use the existing building, and add on to make room for the equipment used in the manufacturing process.

Egnew said work to expand the site will begin “soon.” Construction on a new 50,000 square-foot addition will begin very shortly to provide additional workspace for the new company. The addition will be built behind the existing facility, with an additional 30,000 square feet of land available for future expansion.
Fibrotex already had the plans developed for the expansion in place for more than 90-days in anticipation of the contract, so there should be no delays in starting operations.
“We are on a very tight schedule,” Egnew said. “They should start moving in their very specialized equipment within seven months. By this time next year we should be in full production.”
Full production, Egnew said, would be about 1,000 units a month at the outset, but plans are to be able to escalate production to 10,000 units once fully operational.

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