Chuck Gruber, president and CEO, Safe Reflections

CEO Chuck Gruber says Oakdale-based Safe Reflections is the largest reflective material company in the United States "and maybe on the planet," supplying leading uniform, safety clothing and athletic apparel brands.

Now, through subsidiary Brilliant Reflective, it is giving away 500,000 sample packs of reflective safety strips. They are going to schools, clubs and organizations to distribute to kids, runners, bikers and others to apply to items they wear, carry or ride on at night, Gruber said.

"The DIY aspect of this product is what we're really trying to get across," Gruber said. "This kit has enough to trick out a bike, a helmet, a backpack or a couple pair of shoes."

Visibility is key to staying safe on the roads, Gruber said, noting that more than 5,300 pedestrians are killed and an estimated 70,000 injured in traffic crashes each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Safe Reflections is committing $200,000 to convert reflective material into the giveaway packs, Gruber said. More than 110 groups in 31 states have signed up to receive the strips since the giveaway began last month, Gruber said.

Brilliant Reflective uses 3M Scotchlite Reflective Material and colorizes it using a patented process to make the strips.

Former 3M chemical engineer Bob Koppes founded Safe Reflections in 1993. Gruber, a chemical engineer with a background in running companies, joined Safe Reflections in 2012 as president and chief operating officer and was promoted to president and CEO after Koppes' death in 2015.

Q: How would you describe Safe Reflections' business?

A: We supply primarily to the garment industry in three markets: to all five branches of the military, workwear and uniform suppliers and consumer activewear. From this facility in the Twin Cities we ship annually to over 150 factories in Asia. Those garments get made in Asia with our material and tend to come back into the United States.

Q: How is the market for Brilliant Reflective?

A: The uptake has been slower than expected. People don't know much about reflective, how it works, how it can save their lives, how it can increase their visibility. But most importantly people don't know it's something they can buy and put on things themselves as opposed to buying things with it already on.

Q: Is Brilliant Reflective available in retail stores?

A: We launched less than a year ago in specialty bike and running stores, 140 of them. We expect by fall to be in 300 to 500 around the U.S. We just signed a distribution agreement in Canada, and we're also being launched in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Latin America. It's all U.S. product all made here in Minnesota with American workers.

Todd Nelson