Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze Woonsocket North Smithfield 11-21-2019

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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Page 15 of 47

16 WOONSOCKET NOVEMBER 21-27, 2019 | VALLEY BREEZE | NORTH SMITHFIELD BLACKSTONE WOONSOCKET EDITION tiles, they think of a struggling industry with very low opportunity and a dismal outlook," he said. "We're just the opposite. We're a third- generation, I've been doing this for 32 years. I love what I do. I think there are great opportu- nities." The contracts fea- ture several items used by the U.S. military, including the military blanket, the U.S. Navy gray blanket, the U.S. Army black berets and two different types of cold-weather parkas and trousers. While some of these items, such as the blankets and berets, are already produced in the company's Woonsocket facility, others, such as the snow camo parka, are new items that rep- resent a five-year con- tract for the company. For the time being, Brickle said he plans to subcontract out produc- tion of the new items to a Boston-based com- pany with a cut-and-sew facility in Rhode Island. However, by year two of the contract, he hopes to bring some of the new items in-house, a step that could result in significant local job growth. "It would prob- ably require us to hire 30 to 40 additional people, and they'll either be located at the Woonsocket or North Smithfield facilities that we own," he said. "The thing that's nice about that, it means more for local business as well, because as well as bringing the business in- house, local packaging, corrugated, those typed of communities as well as local restaurants will benefit from it." In addition to the potential manufactur- ing jobs, Brickle said the new contracts have enabled them to hire half-dozen new office personnel to oversee quality assurance and customer service. In recent years, said Brickle, government contracts have grown from about 15 percent to 30 to 40 percent of the company's busi- ness. It's a dependable customer for a com- pany that focuses on institutional and indus- trial rather than retail products. In addition to military wear, the com- pany produces home- less relief blankets and textiles for camps and correctional facilities. "We're never inter- ested in being a com- modity player, so we stay away from the large retailers and retail seg- ment," said Brickle. The company employs about 120 workers at facilities around Woonsocket and North Smithfield. Last year, they added an additional 30,000 square feet in Woonsocket, though that building is currently offline after a fire damaged some of the equipment. Brickle said he hopes to have the new space up and running again by the end of next summer. The company has also gotten creative with their use of vacant space. After develop- ing a one-megawatt solar farm at their Branch Village facility in North Smithfield, the company submitted an application earlier this year to develop a smaller, 250-kilowatt array across the street from their main offices on Singleton Street. According to Brickle, the array will make use of a property that had little chance for other development. "It's been available for years to be devel- oped as an industrial park, but other states have ready-to-go slabs of property that all the infrastructure is in place, and we don't have that. So it's tough to compete with these other places in New England like New Hampshire and parts of Mass. that have ready-to-go sites," he said. As of last week, he said, the company was waiting on per- mits from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management before beginning to assemble the array. Brickle also gave a nod to the state's labor and training programs, including Real Jobs RI and the Rhode Island Innovation Network, as a factor in the com- pany's growth. Many of the company's workers, he said, are first-gener- ation immigrants who benefit from training programs. "It's been at tremen- dous help, I don't think only for our company, but for all the participat- ing companies," he said. MAX BRICKLE, president of The Brickle Group, holds up some of the items produced for the U.S. military as part of $84 million in Defense Logistics Agency contracts. They include the U.S. Army black berets, the U.S. Navy gray blanket and the Gen III Layer VII parka. GROWTH From Page One Do you like to read The Valley Breeze? Then please shop with our advertisers, and tell them 'I saw it in The Breeze!' Local Eats Banquet Rooms for any size party. 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