Summer 2019 – Inside Outdoor Magazine

Inside Outdoor | SUMMER 2019 16 Made in America “M ade in America” is far from a trend for Out- door Research. For 25 years the company has operated a manufacturing enterprise in Se- attle, Wash., from which it has produced purpose-built products for the U.S. military and tactical markets. This relationship with the U.S. military not only has led to numerous product innovations being incorporated into outdoor products, but it’s also been an integral part of what has allowed Outdoor Research to maintain its domestic manufacturing capabili- ties, said Michelle Wardian, com- pany president. Earlier this year, Outdoor Research expanded on its associa- tion with both the U.S. military and domestic production. In April, the company officially opened its second U.S. manufacturing facil- ity, this one in El Monte, Calif., effectively doubling the number of U.S.-based staff who are building apparel and gear onshore. The hundred-plus employees working at the site will focus on making cold-weather gloves for the mili- tary, including gloves with the lat- est Gore-Tex stretch membrane. During the past two years, Outdoor Research conducted a comprehensive review of the U.S. supply chain and is in active de- velopment with textile mills and mate- rials providers to expand and elevate the capabilities of products that are 100 percent American-made, said the company. It also has made significant capital investments in cutting-edge machinery and process efficiency to improve and modernize its Seattle factory, along with hiring more site engineers. This template was rep- licated in El Monte to significantly increase the brand’s U.S. manufac- turing capacity. Having highly skilled manufacturing located in the U.S., said Wardian, gives Outdoor Research the ability to prototype products on-site, allowing new products to be developed more quickly and to go through more rounds of iteration. “This new investment will allow us to continue to accelerate our product-development cycle so we can more rapidly field the latest in- novations to the end user, helping increase the mobility and protection of soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and law-enforcement officers, and also driving innovation company- wide in the process,” she said. “We’re proud that we’ve been able to bring American manufacturing to the table to accomplish this.” The El Monte facility also likely satisfies the stated intentions by large Korean manufacturing compa- ny Youngone Corp., which acquired a significant equity investment in OR in 2014, to build a U.S. factory. El Monte specifically, and South- ern California more generally, has a long history of garment sewing. It’s been estimated that about 1,000 textile workers have been displaced in El Monte alone due to production moving overseas in recent years. Outdoor Research’s investment in the community put 115 of these skilled workers back to work, and that workforce reflects the diversity of a community that according to Census figures is 65.2 percent His- panic and 30 percent Asian. At the grand opening celebration of the El Monte facility, for example, the gather- ing was addressed in English, Spanish and Cantonese. m Outdoor Research Doubles Down on U.S. Manufacturing OR’s El Monte workforce celebrating the factories grand opening Visitors to OR El Monte are welcomed by a showroom of the brand’s military/tactical offerings