TWO HARBORS, Minn. - Outdoor-gear company Granite Gear is expanding its operations near its headquarters in Two Harbors, in part because of military contracts that have increased demand for its rugged backpacks and other products.
The company doubled its space this month by leasing a new 7,200-square-foot distribution center near its existing facilities. The move will provide room for more efficient shipping and will also free up space for production and research, according to a Duluth News Tribune report ( http://bit.ly/PhkhPL).
"We've just been overflowing in (our existing) facility," chief operating officer Dan Cruikshank said. The new space "gives us a chance to spread out and be more efficient."
The company started in 1986 with consumer outdoor products, such as heavy-duty backpacks and canoe packs. In recent years it expanded into the tactical and military markets, landing its first military contract in 2008. Its packs are now used by Navy SEALs and other elite specialized forces.
The military market has helped drive its sales. While some of Granite Gear's consumer products are made overseas, products for the U.S. military must be made in the U.S. Granite Gear contracts with other U.S. plants to manufacture the tactical products, but sales manager Dave Johnson said only the Two Harbors plant has the computer-operated cutting machinery that prepares the raw materials.
Granite Gear landed another major military contract last year and delivered the first of those products earlier this year. The deal, in which Granite Gear is a subcontractor to another firm, involves helping to produce kits of field-rescue and medical gear.
Most of the company's products are used by specialized military forces such as Army Rangers and Green Berets, whose role and importance are increasing even as troops return home from Iraq and Afghanistan. Cruickshank said that bodes well for the company's continued growth.
"This is serious business, and we take our responsibility seriously, to deliver products that work," he said. "We're in a good position to grow."
Granite Gear has about 40 employees in Two Harbors.
Granite Gear: http://www.granitegearstore.com
Information from: Duluth News Tribune, http://www.duluthsuperior.com