Posted: Thursday, October 16, 2014 10:25 am | Updated: 11:06 am, Thu Oct 16, 2014.
PALMYRA — Last year, V Technical Textiles bought a 4,500-square-foot building at 613 S. Main St. in Newark, a sign of its commitment to grow employment in Wayne County.
Founded in 2006, this family business is an independently owned subsidiary of the German company Statex. The company distributes conductive textiles made by Statex and manufactures products made from those textiles, ranging from tents, shelters and pouches to antimicrobial clothing.
Statex yarns, fibers and fabrics use silver as their base plating, although copper, tin and nickel can be added, based on the customer’s end use application. Silver is the metal of choice because of its many positive properties. It shields radio frequencies, is electrical and thermal conductive and has strong antibacterial, antimicrobial and fungicidal characteristics.
V Technical Textiles is owned by Jeanne Hoge. Her husband, Bill, is the company’s chief executive officer and chief technical officer; and her son, Shawn DeCook, is its operations manager.
The business grew out of Bill Hoge’s consulting work with Statex. A polymer chemist and electrical engineer by training, he formerly worked for Kodak and Ultralife before becoming a consultant.
He worked closely with Statex — it’s based in Bremen, Germany — to develop its textile-coating technology, and V Technical Textiles was founded as a result of that partnership. The Palmyra company is a distributor for Statex products and has exclusive selling rights in the Americas and China. It also sells its products in Southeast Asia, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Finland.
A few years into the business, Hoge said customers started asking V Technical Textiles to help develop finished goods out of the material the company was selling. Considering the textiles range from $60 to $200 a running yard, “they’d rather have the mistake made on our end than theirs,” DeCook joked.
Consequently, V Technical Textiles developed both an industrial and commercial line of products.
On the industrial end, the company has produced radio frequency shielded enclosures for the government, test labs and universities. Its biggest was a 30-by-30-by-16-foot enclosure for NASA that housed the Mars Rover. Such enclosures eliminate standard outside radio frequency noise or trap transmissions so others can’t eavesdrop. Hoge said the company has done work for Homeland Security, and DeCook showed off a camouflage laptop computer briefcase sold to the military so computer hard drives remain safe and inaccessible to scanning.
Such enclosures are also being made for cell phones, and Hoge said automakers are interested in similar pouches for key fobs as a way for car owners to protect their fobs from being scanned and then their cars stolen.
On the commercial side, garments being produced include socks for the medical industry and other clothing — sweatshirts and undergarments, for example — with antimicrobial properties. Hoge called silver “one of the greatest antimicrobials” and said toe socks in particular help diabetics avert foot problems.
The company’s textiles are also made into clothing for those with RF, or radiofrequency, sensitivity. Hoge said people with weak immune systems can be affected by low level radiofrequency energy. This condition — it can prompt headaches, blisters and dry skin — is becoming more prevalent and well known.
These products used to be made in Palmyra but are now assembled in Newark. DeCook is awaiting the arrival of an automated cutting machine that will replace traditional hand cutting. He hopes to eventually transform a portion of the building into a retail facility.
The company employs four people at its corporate offices in Palmyra; six at its Newark manufacturing facility; and eight in China. Hoge said V Technical Textiles has had a presence in both Beijing and Shanghai since 2012 and is one of the few American companies exporting textiles to China.
Hoge and DeCook declined to share sales figures, but said sales are growing.
“We would like to grow at a pace of 15 percent a year,” Hoge said. “Some years are 40 percent [growth]. Others are 6 or 7 percent. In general speak, we grow each year.”
In terms of future trends, Hoge sees great potential in the “smart” textiles arena for both high-end athletes, medical use and even water filtration.
In the agricultural marketplace there is interest in reducing the use of antibiotics in chicken and pork; Hoge said a water filtration system that uses the company’s textiles is being developed because of the material’s antibacterial and flexible properties.
“Smart” textiles feature wearable electronics sewn into garments. Statex has developed a textile “wire” that can be sewn into a basic textile. Potential applications include the monitoring of patients for medical episodes, or while sleeping.
“It’s much easier for the patient to wear a garment than an apparatus they have to strap on,” Hoge said.
He also sees application in the sports arena, where an athlete can wear a shirt that monitors his heart and oxygen rates which are wirelessly communicated to a cell phone. The company also makes a yoga mat with conductive thread that electrically grounds a user to the Earth.
In terms of a professional athlete, “smart” textiles can provide real-time training data.
“Wearable devices are all the rage in the professional athlete marketplace,” Hoge said.
Hoge and DeCook admit doing business in New York state can be challenging because there is less assistance than other states and a greater tax burden. But they are happy to make the commitment to growing their business in their home state.
“The key here is this business — unlike most textile businesses — could be anyplace so that gives us a lot of freedom. We try to sort out potential programs that can help us, but we don’t rely on New York state to sustain us,” Hoge said.