FiberLok expects sales to double

FORT COLLINS – FiberLok Inc., a three-decade old Fort Collins company, is predicting significant growth this year as the company wins new contracts worldwide.

CEO Brown Abrams said he expects his company to double sales just this year. That growth will come from a contract involving military police uniforms for two South American countries and fabric covers for smart phones.

“We have so much going on here,” Abrams said.

Established in November 1979, the award-winning company makes products for more than 100 niche markets. It specializes in graphics on everything from uniforms to team jerseys.

FiberLok is part of a U.S. industry that is one of the largest manufacturing employers in the nation, employing nearly 600,000 people in 2010, according to the National Council of Textile Organizations. Textile shipments totaled $51 billion, and exports grew 20 percent to more than $15 billion that year.

Unlike many of its competitors, FiberLok employs manufacturing techniques that eschew embroidery. Instead, it uses its Lextra technology in textile printing, making patches and stickers and adding soft fabrics to plastic.

Embroidery remains one of the only options for classy work, athletic, parochial or government uniforms. People like the texture of embroidery and it looks expensive, Brown said.

But stitching can fall short because designs must be simplified and fewer colors can be used. Embroidery also does not work well on performance textiles that are breathable, elastic, thin and lightweight.

FiberLok offers another option: three-dimensional designs that fully capture original artwork while incorporating texture and allowing flexibility.

“What we have is the best of both worlds,” Abrams said.

FiberLok actually uses a dozen technologies in its manufacturing processes and, in some cases, the company makes its own machines. In a process called sublimation, the company prints ink onto paper and heat-transfers that design into fabric.

“When you heat up the ink, the dye actually moves into the molecular level of a yarn, of a fabric,” he said. “So it’s not on the surface, it’s in the yarn.”

If that sounds high-tech, it is. The company boasts about 50 patents issued and pending.

“We’re a hotbed of creativity and innovation,” Abrams said.

Along those lines, the company soon will use a laser that can manufacture graphics at a rate of about 2,000 inches per second.

FiberLok’s gigs include designs for New Era baseball caps for the World Series and jerseys for the All-Star Game. It also makes rain coats for camera crews at Major League Baseball games.

FiberLok has more exciting plans this year.

The company will imprint designs on tens of thousands of military police uniforms for two South American nations. Abrams declined to name the countries.

FiberLok also will join another company to make soft-textured covers for phones and phone carriers.

It also will ramp up production of stickers, which it already makes for Full-Tilt Poker.

All that will result in revenue of more than $10 million as well as new hires, Abrams said. The company now employs 80 people working in two shifts.

Despite the company’s manufacturing success, Abrams said it could have a greater web presence. As business takes off, web marketing will play an increasing role in generating additional sales in the future.

“We’re a 30-year-old company that’s in a launch phase,” he laughs.

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