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Deana Stokes Sullivan
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Manufacturing Company to produce workwear using fire-retardant fabric

The president of a new company that plans to open a manufacturing facility in Happy Valley-Goose Bay hopes his business will not only benefit from this province's booming offshore, mining and utility sectors, but also improve safety in those industries.

Todd Budgell, a native of central Newfoundland now living in St. John's, previously worked for companies selling fire-retardant clothing.

Todd Budgell, president of Rock Wear Industries, holds a pair of coveralls made with fire retardant fabric. The new company plans to open a manufacturing facility in Happy Valley-Goose Bay by early fall. Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

The president of a new company that plans to open a manufacturing facility in Happy Valley-Goose Bay hopes his business will not only benefit from this province's booming offshore, mining and utility sectors, but also improve safety in those industries.

Todd Budgell, a native of central Newfoundland now living in St. John's, previously worked for companies selling fire-retardant clothing.

"We would go out and buy from a distributor. We knew there was a demand," he said.

About four years ago, Budgell realized there's a big enough market locally to open a manufacturing facility in this province. He said the company he worked for at the time wasn't interested in this idea, but he found one that was - Midwestern Garments (MWG) in Manitoba.

MWG has been in the garment industry for about 80 years and has been making fire-retardant clothing, Budgell said.

Budgell said the deal he negotiated will see MWG owning 50 per cent of the new local company, Rock Wear Industries.

Happy Valley-Goose Bay was chosen as the best site for the manufacturing facility, in view of all the industrial activity taking place there, including hydroelectric developments and mining.

"It seems like everything is just starting to explode in Labrador," Budgell said, adding there's also a highly skilled workforce in Labrador.

By late summer or early fall, Budgell expects to have a manufacturing facility opened in Happy Valley-Goose Bay to produce Rock Wear brand fire-retardant clothing. He said the company also plans to have a distribution centre in St. John's.

The Labrador building is ready, Budgell said, and options are now being explored for equipment for the facility. At the outset, he said, 51 people are expected to be employed and if the company secures even 50 per cent of the business available in Newfoundland and Labrador, it could possibly expand to employ double that number.

An orange-coloured coverall Budgell holds up with a Rock Wear logo inside the neck appears well-tailored, with outside detail stitching, zippers and pockets. But Budgell said there's something even more special about these garments.

Rather than having a chemical coating for fire retardant, the clothing is made from fire-retardant fabric. Budgell said the properties are inherent in the fabric like DNA, and are there for the life of the garment.

He describes the Rock Wear line as flash fire and arc flash clothing. In the event of fire, he said, when the emission source is removed, the fire goes out.

Budgell said MWG has been certified to make fire-retardant clothing by the Canadian Goods Safety Board (CGSB).

He said a lot of manufacturers in Canada put on their labels that their products meet the performance requirements of the CGSB, but that doesn't mean the fabric has been tested for being fire retardant.

Rock Wear plans to turn fire-retardant fabric into coveralls, work shirts, pants and other items.

In some cases, Budgell said, companies have found that the fire-retardant properties of clothing their employees have been wearing have been compromised through washing, especially when chlorine was used.

He said a number of topical chemicals applied to fabrics can be affected in this manner, with no fire-retardant value left over time.

The colour of the garment, however, may not change, he said, leaving the employee with a false sense of security.

"When we make a garment, we have to send it to the CGSB and they're going to do seam strength tests, all kinds of additional tests and then certify that this garment meets the requirements," Budgell said.

Even the zippers, velcro and stitching on the clothing have to all be certified as fire retardant.

Rock Wear coveralls could cost anywhere from $150 to $200 each, but Budgell said he expects his company will enter into contracts for bulk purchases with companies such as those working in the offshore, utility and mining industries.

Budgell said he Labrador facility will employ people to do sewing, a graphics person, equipment operators and managers, including a production manager.

The wages offered will be "healthy," he said, in the area of about $14 an hour.

With many people in the province having worked in fish plants and the fishery today experiencing a downturn, Budgell said facilities like this will offer people in the province alternate employment opportunities.

"There's a huge market and it's getting bigger by the day," he said.

With more emphasis today on workplace safety, Budgell expects the Rock Wear clothing line will do well.

dss@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Canadian Goods Safety Board, Rock Wear Industries

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Happy Valley, Goose Bay St. John's Manitoba Canada

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Recent comments

  • Penney
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    Great stuff. Glad to see it.

  • Gerry
    July 02, 2010 - 13:12

    Nice to see more young, ambitious locals getting involved in entrepreneurship. Good Luck with your endeavours.

  • Penney
    July 01, 2010 - 20:20

    Great stuff. Glad to see it.

  • Gerry
    July 01, 2010 - 19:50

    Nice to see more young, ambitious locals getting involved in entrepreneurship. Good Luck with your endeavours.