Creatively Pleasing

February 1, 2017

Phyllis Mitchell is the owner of Phyllis Mitchell’s Island Style Marine Canvas & Upholstery in Kemah, Texas. Since its opening in July of 2013, the company has been specializing in the design and fabrication of all things sewn on a sail or powerboat. Here, Mitchell shares her thoughts about the industry, the challenges her company …

Tax law changes

How the Trump Administration may affect businesses. Any change in Washington, D.C., brings the possibility—and the likelihood—of tax law changes. The election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States is no exception. In his campaign, President Trump highlighted several goals of tax reform that included reducing the official corporate tax rate …

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From old to new: a glimpse into recycling technology

January 4, 2017

Recycling discarded materials into usable other things requires considerable effort and investment, but more companies are doing just that. Take Serge Ferrari North America, a Pompano Beach, Fla.-based manufacturer of flexible composite membranes used globally by numerous markets. In 1996, the company began exploring the idea of recycling its materials for the print and tent …

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When to count income

January 1, 2017

Get ready for new guidelines on ‘revenue recognition.’ Sometimes accounting rules and the tax law are logical and equitable; sometimes they aren’t. One question always seems to surface: When is a business’s revenue considered “income”? The time to claim income and deductions is dictated by rules or laws, not by a business owner’s opinion. Accounting …

Keeping up with the Joneses

Stephan Kåmark is president of Oxnard, Calif.-based Advanced Canvas & Upholstery Services. The Channel Islands Harbor shop specializes in flooring, enclosures, covers, solar power and repairs in the marine, industrial, aviation and military sectors, offering quality fabric and hardware from the U.S. and Europe. Here, Kåmark talks about his biggest influence, the rewards that come …

Good people, bad choices

December 1, 2016

Even the most well-intentioned employees are vulnerable to slipping into unethical choices when their lives lack balance. Ask an average person, “Would you voluntarily do something that is unethical or illegal?” Generally, he or she will reply something like, “Heavens, no!” People naturally prefer to do the right thing. However, when faced with enough pressure, …

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Soft sensors

Flexible data collectors that can be worn on (and eventually, in) the body have great promise for patient-focused health care, but there are privacy concerns. The market for smart sensors is expected to grow from $18.58 billion in 2015 to more than $57 billion by 2022, according to a report published this summer by MarketsandMarkets …

Northern niche

November 1, 2016

Kate Mitchell is the owner of NOMAR, a Homer, Alaska-based company that develops unique items to serve the local industries. NOMAR first opened its doors in 1978 as Mitchell’s Marine Canvas & Upholstery. Today, it employs 15 skilled employees and offers American made clothing, ‘Laska Luggage,’ fisheries gear, parachute bags, upholstery and canvas boat tops. …

The Halo effect

Threading carefully to minimize damages from patent infringement. The smart textile industry continues to respond to customer interest in interactive fabrics that meet a variety of needs, including the monitoring of athletic performance and the improvement of tissue reconstruction. This growth drives new approaches to solve problems, pushing the textile industry to draw on advancements …

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Price and value in the agricultural markets

October 11, 2016

Profit margins are tight for a lot of industries, but this is especially true in the agricultural arena, where profits can be wiped out—in some cases virtually overnight—by events beyond the control of growers and producers. Consequently, pricing has become a huge concern for all involved, say manufacturers of fabric agricultural products designed to mitigate …

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New technology and management strategies can prevent targeted cyberattacks

October 1, 2016

Modern, targeted cyberattacks can take any organization by surprise. And these targeted cyberattacks are increasingly widespread. CBS “Money Watch” reported in June 2015 that more than 80 percent of U.S. companies have been successfully hacked, according to a Duke University/CFO Magazine Global Business Outlook Survey. According to the CBS report, “Successful attacks by hackers involved …

Shading for land or sea

Sandy Sturner is the managing director of Marine Tech LLC, a St. Thomas, Virgin Islands-based sail and canvas shop that thrives on challenging and unusual projects. Established in 1999, Marine Tech focuses during the winter “high” season on marine canvas with an emphasis on mega-yachts, and during the balance of the year concentrates on awning …

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Coating tests that evaluate five types of durability

September 1, 2016

The right coating chemistry can make the difference between a fabric that has long-lasting durability and one that fades, degrades and fails before its expected lifecycle. This is especially true of fabrics used in awnings, tents, flexible decking, outdoor furniture, marine upholstery and automotive seating, where exposure to harsh environments can hasten the product lifecycle. …

Blair Belluomo brings a strong and appreciative management style to the family business

I went to school with many kids whose parents had businesses, and they thought that just because their parents ran a successful business, they could just step in and be successful as well,” says Blair Belluomo, owner and president of Belle Isle Awning in Roseville, Mich. “So many of them failed because they hadn’t had other …

Test of time

Bea Heinz, owner of Jefferson Tent & Awning Co., St. Louis, Mo., has a bit of experience in the custom canvas industry—51 years to be exact. Established in 1911, the majority of Jefferson Tent & Awning’s business consists of the custom manufacture of commercial and residential canvas awnings as well as all types of canvas …

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Canada is putting a new emphasis on developing smart textiles and wearable innovations

Textile is rapidly becoming the most effective wearable technology form factor,” says Tony Chahine, CEO of Myant & Co., a member of the Canadian-based Smart Textile and Wearables Innovation Alliance (STWIA). “Smart textiles and wearables have the ability to provide a holistic picture of the body, enhance everyday life and even transform the future of …

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Bold predictions: What’s realistic for smart textiles

August 1, 2016

The words smart textiles have generated much discussion in the industry and the media recently. India-based market research firm Markets and Markets has estimated that the value of this high-tech textile sector will grow to $4.7 billion by 2020. Given that the smart textile industry was estimated to be less than $1 billion in 2014, …

Providing “shady deals” since 1972

Debbie Lacy, general manager of The House of Canvas Inc., Glendale, Ariz., takes pride in her family owned and operated custom awning business. From residential and commercial window awnings to shade screens and roll curtains, everything from start to finish is done in-house. Here, Lacy shares her thoughts about the business, her predictions for the …

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Reinforcement of seismic proportions

July 29, 2016

A Japanese fabric manufacturer reinforces its showroom against future earthquakes, making a provocative visual statement. With the four main islands of Japan perched atop a convergence of three major tectonic plate boundaries, the country has a history of earthquakes and seismic activity. The ongoing seismic impact on buildings, infrastructure and population is significant, requiring some …

Who’ll mind the store?

Internship programs are an untapped resource for finding the next generation of leaders for specialty fabrics businesses. After decades of building businesses within the textile industry, entrepreneurial baby boomers are entering a new phase of life. As CEOs, business owners and managers consider transitioning out of their leadership positions, they’re dealing with a lot of …

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Equipment purchasing: price and value

July 18, 2016

ROI is still an important factor in buying decisions, but qualities like reliability, durability and customer service are moving to the forefront. The return on investment (ROI) and how long it might take to achieve it is always a key consideration in most purchasing decisions, particularly during the Great Recession when pricing and ROI moved …

Tips for building a strong management team

July 14, 2016

Training staff to be empowered, involved and empathetic means success in the present and in the future. Although it was years away—10 to be exact—from when Jerry Grimaud, president of Lawrence Fabric & Metal Structures Inc., St. Louis, Mo., became the company’s sole owner in 2005, he didn’t waste any time considering an exit plan. …

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Projects and prototypes

June 29, 2016

Industry breakthroughs are proving the viability of photovoltaic fabrics. The University of Wisconsin–Madison may not be the first research institution you would think of for solar textiles research, but a relatively new research team is changing that low profile substantially. Marianne Fairbanks, assistant professor in the School of Human Ecology, and Trisha Andrew, assistant professor …

Foundations built to last

Mal Maher is the CEO of NC Carpet Binding & Equipment Corp., a Newark, N.J.-based company that manufactures machinery and offers supplies for the flooring trade. Founded in 1947 by his uncle and grandfather, Maher got his start in the family owned and operated business in 2000. Here, Maher shares his thoughts about production challenges, …

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Working smarter, from fabric to product

Amsterdam-based studio works with manufacturers to bring a design sensibility to smart fabrics. The theme for this year’s Met Gala, the annual Metropolitan Museum of Art style spectacular that brings out top celebrities and fashion industry icons, was about fashion in the age of technology. Some designers took the opportunity to integrate smart textiles into …

A succession solution

How to determine if an employee stock ownership plan is right for your company. An exit plan is generally not at the forefront of a company owner’s mind, especially at the height of career success, but it’s no less important than any other business strategy. When the time comes to step down, a comprehensive exit …

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Smart fabrics, smart move

From research to manufacturing reality through the AFFOA Institute. The AFFOA initiative provides an exciting opportunity to enhance the functionality of the fabrics that all of us interact with every day,” says Dr. Julianna Abel, University of Minnesota mechanical engineering assistant professor. These functional fabrics, or “smart fabrics,” can include “multi-material fabrics for medical and …

Tents, trends and technology

June 1, 2016

From RFID to GPS, Mike Holland uses all the newest tools to keep Chattanooga Tent Co. at the leading edge. “We embrace technology here,” says Mike Holland, president of Chattanooga Tent Co., Chattanooga, Tenn. “Especially when it comes to material handling, we’re always looking for anything that can help us work smarter and be more …

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The digital marketing leap

Asking the right questions before choosing a digital marketing partner can save you time and money. There was a time when digital marketing could casually be left to employees who were interested in dabbling in online options. Now, however, digital marketing has grown up. Every business needs a plan that genuinely integrates traditional marketing efforts …

Stretching tent technology

Anton van Druten’s knowledge of the stretch tent industry spans the globe, literally. As owner of Swift Tents, a Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada-based business that specializes in the installation of stretch tents and in the training of riggers and event crews, van Druten became familiar with the tent industry while living in South Africa. Here, …

Leading the third generation

May 1, 2016

Ryan Chism, estimator and project manager at The Chism Company Inc., San Antonio, Texas, is the third generation working in a family-owned and managed company. Founded in 1951, the company has grown from a small home improvement business to a recognized industry leader in fabric and metal shade and protective solutions. Here, Chism shares his …

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Going social

Gain an edge over competitors by learning to navigate the sea of social media marketing. The ways in which social media is utilized for business are nearly limitless, but it is especially valuable for building brand equity, highlighting company culture, enhancing public relations efforts, complementing customer service, augmenting business development, developing customer relationships and strengthening …

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Brand new

April 1, 2016

A strong brand identity can drive sales, while a weak one holds a business back. Your business may be keeping up with economic and market changes and be on the leading edge of industry trends, but is your brand keeping pace? There’s no denying that today’s business culture is fast-moving and constantly changing. A leading …

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Ideas in harness

Michael Lester doesn’t shy away from a challenge. He builds a team of fellow innovators and comes up with tensioned fabric solutions. “We’re always innovating,” says Michael Lester, managing director of MakMax Australia Pty. Ltd. in Brisbane, Australia, a world-renowned company building custom membrane structures and manufacturing a range of shade products. “We’ve always got …

Against the elements

Donald Franks is the owner of Shade One Awnings, a Toms River, N.J.-based awning company that specializes in residential and commercial awning sales, service and installation. Franks started the company in 2002 and has since set himself apart from competitors by focusing on motorized retractable awnings. Here, Franks talks about how he got his start, …

Collecting sun and rain

March 1, 2016

A pair of dynamic fabric structures bookend the Taiwan landscape. From the northern most tip of Taiwan, where capital city Taipei is located, to the southwest coast, where Kaohsiung City, the country’s industrial center, greets the setting sun, two new installations showcase the capabilities of tensioned fabric. The north-south oriented island nation of Taiwan (population …

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Sailing the ocean blue

Leo Pohlmann, owner and designer of Uncharted Marine Canvas, Gulf Breeze, Fla., has been serving the Gulf Coast’s boat canvas and marine upholstery needs for more than 25 years. Recognized by the Marine Fabricators Association for his achievement in design, Pohlmann’s business objective of providing customers with cutting-edge material and design products has been a …

Recent tax changes

Tax savings from another late law. Once again, lawmakers waited until late in the year to pass another “extenders” bill. The new “Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015” retroactively extends quite a few tax-saving provisions, many of them quite narrow in scope such as those for film and theater producers, NASCAR® racetrack …

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Envision, build, repeat

Michael Catalano treats his clients as strategic partners—and that keeps them coming back. “We have a saying here: It’s not about the first job. It’s about the next job,” says Michael Catalano, CEO of Capitol Awning Co., Jamaica, N.Y. “And probably 90 percent or more of our work ends up being repeat business.” Michael Catalano …

Connecting with students

Opportunities for the next generation. As businesses and industries transition and evolve, more professionals recognize the importance of continually connecting with the college and university students who may be interested in learning more about the specialty fabrics industry. Just ask Stephanie Cizinsky, marketing manager at Glen Raven Inc., Glen Raven, N.C. She explains that a wealth …

CRM programs run the gamut

February 1, 2016

There are dozens and dozens—maybe hundreds—of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software programs on the market. And it seems that most are difficult to use. In terms of navigating the programs, many CRM packages seem to be rated along an arc of complexity, from user-unfriendly to totally impossible to use. One well-known program, Salesforce, is often …

Out of this world

Brent Anderson is a partner and engineering manager at Aerospace Fabrication & Materials, a Farmington, Minn., company that specializes in the design, fabrication and installation of Multi-Layer Insulation (MLI) Blankets for use on spacecraft, launch vehicles and cryogenic applications. The company’s MLI blankets have been used on AMOS II and SCISAT I spacecraft as well …

When employees leave: fact finding

Mine the hidden resources of departing employees with a thoughtful exit interview. When it’s time to hire that new employee, you pull out all the stops: a complete review of duties and responsibilities, a tightly crafted list of desired skills and careful interviews. You make the hire—and hope that you’ve made the right choice. Now …

Person to person

Meeting face-to-face with overseas customers brings a wealth of benefits. I’ve been traveling to Asia, including China, since 1981, promoting U.S. products for more than 100 firms. One vitally important lesson I’ve learned is the value of talking with overseas customers in person. Face-to-face conversations with prospects and customers bring tremendous and unexpected orders—and they …

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Keep moving

January 1, 2016

For most businesses, change is an essential part of long-term success. Ongoing innovation, in products, processes, service and value, is the best way to beat the competition. Innovation. It’s the essential ingredient in any company’s ability to thrive and stay viable for the long haul. Innovative companies are restless explorers, constantly searching for and testing …

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Streamlining with software

Today’s software and apps help fabricators keep pace and stay competitive, efficient and productive. Few words captivate the software and app sector more than the word change. Software and applications are drastically changing the way we do business, and many specialty fabric end product manufacturers (EPMs) and suppliers have integrated software and apps into their …

Payroll perils

The Internal Revenue Service may be relentless about collecting income taxes, but mistakes in withholding and paying payroll taxes to the IRS can mean real trouble for a business. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can be tough on collecting income taxes, but mistakes in withholding and paying over-withheld payroll taxes can be even more painful, …

Back to shore

Jeff Schmitt balances the reality of off-shore manufacturing with how to bring production back to the U.S. “At the end of the day we’ve got to figure out ways to be competitive,” says Jeff Schmitt, senior vice president of operations for The Coleman Company Inc., Golden, Colo. “As the person responsible for both the U.S. …

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Tapping into innovation

December 14, 2015

Innovation doesn’t always come easily, but creating a culture that fosters creativity can improve the process (and results) of continuous improvement. Every company knows that innovation is vital, but knowing how to innovate is a different matter. Why are some companies able to launch one new idea or product after the next while others stagnate? …

A six-letter word

December 1, 2015

Fabricators take a dim view of extending credit to customers … sort of. On the surface, it seems like a slam-dunk decision for a shop not to extend credit. “Let’s see, when you write off thousands and thousands of dollars—maybe even $100,000 over the 30-year life of the company—you start to think about giving anybody …