Firm taps world markets with high-performance exports


The New Ipswich headquarters of Warwick Mills may be on the site of the oldest textile mill in New Hampshire, but its products are leading-edge, even by 21st century standards. Warwick’s high-performance, flexible composite materials are used in the aerospace, recreational, industrial, law enforcement, military and medical industries. And, thanks in part to assistance from New Hampshire’s International Trade Resource Center, the company has penetrated markets all over the world. “ITRC has been a tremendous resource for us,” said Warwick Mills’ vice president of business development, Jennifer Houston. “We’ve attended many of their seminars. They’ve helped us understand markets and how to export, right down to making sure we have the right export numbers and that products are classified correctly. When we’re unsure of how to proceed, they’re right there to help.” As a result of its relationship with ITRC, said Houston, the firm has expanded into markets in Australia, the Middle East, Europe and Asia. Such exports are having a sizable impact on Warwick Mills’ business. In 2005, exports accounted for under 10 percent of all sales. In 2006, the figure is expected to jump to 50 percent, thanks to new contracts, said Houston. In 2001, Warwick Mills had 65 employees. By mid-March 2006, the company had over 100 — and the number is still increasing. Critical support In October 2005, Warwick Mills participated in a trade mission to Germany led by Gov. John Lynch and organized by ITRC. ITRC set up appointments for the firm with different organizations. The result: Warwick Mills won a contract with a German company and hooked up with a company in the Netherlands. The contract with the Dutch company is a substantial one. It calls for supplying the Dutch National Police with 25,000 TurtleSkin panels for protective vests. In a continent with strict gun-control laws, the issue in Europe is making protective vests resistant to stabs by knives and other sharp objects and penetration by needles, as opposed to penetration by bullets. Warwick Mills also recently won a contract to supply the Korean National Police Agency with body armor. “Safety is a huge issue overseas. For instance, we provide safety gear for ultra-high-pressure water jet operators. Ultra-high-pressure water jets are used in industrial settings for heavy duty cleaning. In home use, pressure water jets average around 3,000 psi (pounds per square inch), while in industrial settings, the ultra-high-pressure pumps go to 40,000 to 50,000 psi. Being hit by these can be fatal. In the U.S. there are no regulations for protection of water jet operators, but in the U.K. protection is mandatory.” Warwick Mills’ TurtleSkin materials have been used for the crash bags that were used to safely land NASA’s Spirit and Opportunity rovers on Mars. They also are used in demanding applications, such as the world’s largest single-masted sail, snake-resistant clothing for outdoor enthusiasts, and bicycle tire liners. The lightweight, flexible protection provided by TurtleSkin’s Metal Flex Armor is revolutionizing the way body armor manufacturers produce their products, said Houston. Warwick Mills has recently introduced a TurtleSkin FullCoverage Glove that provides a high level of puncture and cut protection over the entire hand and wrist. Designed to protect workers in environments where punctures, cuts and abrasions are daily threats — such as glass manufacturers and waste handlers — this glove is the first on the market to offer complete puncture-resistance from fine, sharp penetrators. The glove, which is already gaining acceptance in U.S. manufacturing plants, should do well overseas as well, said Houston. This article appears through a partnership with the New Hampshire International Trade Resource Center.
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