By Greg Bird
With work progressing rapidly on the new manufacturing plant in Stearns, eyes are turning toward when it will open for business.
It was announced last October that Stearns’ Outdoor Venture Corporation has partnered with Israel-based Fibrotex USA to produce high-tech advanced camouflage netting systems for the United States Army. The two companies won a competitive bid against two rivals for the $480 million, 10-year contract.
Following the announcement there was a slight delay as one of the bidders asked for a further review, but the original bid was upheld and Fibrotex began preparations to begin production soon.
In a meeting with OVC and Fibrotex executives, CEO J.C. Egnew stated the company is planning on a grand opening of operations in the later part of August. The first phase of operations will see upwards of 80 new jobs added to OVC, and about 20-30 for Fibrotex USA.
The new jobs will certainly be a blessing for McCreary County as the economy continues to try and rebound from the closure of mining operations in the ‘80’s.
Fibrotex has a long history of providing security and safety equipment for armed forces in Europe, while OVC’s work in the past with the United States military made them a perfect fit to work together.
“It’s a miracle how we connected,” Egnew said. “Both of our reputations in the industry brought both parties together.”
“They have the product and know how and we have the vehicle with which to help them make the product and distribute it to the Army, Marines and other military organizations.”
Egnew said once production begins in earnest, plans are to manufacture about 25,000 units by the end of 2020. Once the initial run is underway, and any potential bugs are worked out – production will ramp up significantly.
Most of the technical production will take place at Fibrotex, with the final assembly at OVC. Bringing the two companies together in a true partnership.
Adi Blum, CEO of Fibrotex USA said OVC’s experience and relationship with government agencies made them a perfect partner for this project and for the future.
“We couldn’t do a tenth of what we are doing here without Outdoor Venture,” Blum said.
The Fibrotex executive said while it would be easier for a company such as theirs to locate in a larger city, the benefits of working in Stearns with OVC greatly outweigh the other factors.
”We are very happy to be here,” he said. “We felt the hospitality from day one. Already we are like family and friends. OVC is the best partner we could have.”
Blum said the partnership between OVC and Fibrotex will have a “significant” impact on McCreary County, not only in job growth, but in the added potential of growth and more government contracts.
“We have many other things to bring over,” Blum said. “It will put sunlight on this area, which is good.”
The material that will be manufactured in Stearns is the latest innovation in ultra-light camouflage netting, with special fibers embedded that makes anything covered by it practically invisible to all overhead surveillance systems.
It will be completely modern and adaptable; something the military sees great benefits for.
Nacho Schnur, Fibrotex’s Vice President of Research and Development said as new developments in surveillance emerge, Fibrotex will be able to implement changes in production to combat any advancements.
“As soon as US Army recognizes new threat, they can come to us, and with our knowledge, we are able to develop the product to diminish the threat,” Schnur said.
Though it may not be as “sexy” as developing the latest warplane, the idea of protecting personnel and assets on the ground is of significant priority.
“You see soldiers and equipment on the field for miles and miles when deployed,” he said. “With this, they are invisible. That makes a big difference.”
Blum added providing security products to ensure the safety of military personnel is a major component of their company’s ideals – something they have first-hand knowledge of.
“We are very happy to be in this domain,” he said. “In Israel we are very sensitive to that because we are in a fighting zone, unfortunately. We sell only to our allies, and we sleep well with that.”
“To have the opportunity to do this with our biggest ally is a big honor.”
With the 10-year contract in place, Fibrotex and OVC will become the primary provider of camouflage netting systems for the military.
“This will be the home of camouflage for the United States Army,” Schnur said. “For the first time the Army will have a real home for developing and producing detection prevention technologies.”
“And this is not a short-term program,” he added.
Blum said once the initial production is underway, and the contract with the army is being satisfied, plans are to expand operations and move the rest of Fibrotex manufacturing in Israel to Stearns.
Fibrotex currently operates out of Tel Aviv, with products being manufactured for NATO countries in Europe and Asia. The facility, housed in a 130,000 square foot manufacturing plant, produces several lines of products that could eventually be moved to Stearns.
“Our idea is once our production line is stabilized over here, and we are good with our contract with the American Forces; is to bring most or all of our activities from Tel Aviv here,” Blum said.
“It will bring not only more work, but it will also be more technology. These should be integrated and we will be able to provide the solutions to NATO countries across the globe from here.”
Work is being done to renovate the old Armorshield facility as well as construction of a 54,000 square foot extension to accommodate the new production line. There is plenty of room on-site for further expansion as the company grows.
In just a few months the first camouflage netting systems will roll off the production line.
Fibrotex is already advertising for certain positions ahead of the August opening. They are looking for a Plant Manager, experienced printers and knitters as well as a chemist or chemical engineer.
Interested applicants can submit a resume or CV to Nacho Schnur at Nacho@fibrotex-tech.com.