(Host) A Northfield company has won a major contract to supply socks for the military.
Company officials say the $8.5 million order should eventually lead to new jobs at the Cabot Hosiery Mills.
VPR’s John Dillon reports:
Cabot mill sounds
(Dillon) The military was looking for new clothing that is durable, comfortable – and resistant to fire.
Workers at the Cabot Hosiery Mill in Northfield thought they had the footwear for the job. Harvey Stabene is the lead textile designer at the company.
(Stabene) You know I was in the military and socks are a real important thing. Other than your weapon, your socks are your next most important thing, because if you can’t walk, you can’t move and then you’ll die. So I’m really honored.
(Dillon) Cabot makes the socks out of forest green Merino wool. They’re based on a model sold for backpacking, they’re tall and reinforced in the foot to resist wear.
The Merino material doesn’t itch and it wicks away moisture. Socks made from nylon or synthetic fabric are flammable and can be a hazard for a soldier. By comparison, wool naturally resists heat.
(Stabene) And it’s very durable, lasts a long time, you can wear it in summer, you can wear it in winter.
(Dillon) Two years ago, Cabot won an initial contract to make socks for military aviators. The company has been working ever since with a Virginia firm that’s developed a suite of clothing for the military.
Cabot Sales Manager Roland Beliveau says the bid process was grueling, and involved matching field tests of Cabot products against other manufacturers.
(Beliveau) It is such a legal process. .. It started at 10 teams, then went down to six teams then went down to two. Two teams were fielded for a full year, with complete user evaluations top to bottom
(Dillon) The socks were tested inside real boots on the ground, worn by soldiers in Korea and other countries. Then came lab tests to evaluate the strength and durability of the product.
(Beliveau) So in addition to a year long field evaluation, just in a sock, there were 11 lab tests to have a base line performance criteria. It was amazingly thorough and stringent, and very competitive.
(Dillon) Ric Cabot is co-owner of the company. He says the contract will secure the 85 jobs in Northfield, and allow for more growth in the future.
(Cabot) Once we get a good outline of what the delivery schedule is and the demands on the factory, yeah we will most likely be hiring people, investing in equipment, upgrading our procedures. Yeah, it’s absolutely fantastic.
(Dillon) The terms of the contract require that the product be sourced and manufactured in the United States.
Cabot was well positioned for the job since five years ago it created the made-in-the-USA Darn Tough brand. The moved bucked the far more common trend in the clothing industry of outsourcing to China and other countries.
For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Northfield.