Years ago, it wasn't uncommon to have gloves produced in the U.S. Even after the offshore migration of most glove production of any sizable scale, there remained some holdovers who still tried to make gloves domestically. As time moved forward, however, those numbers dwindled, as did the size of the operations that remained.
But this time around, it appears that this call for onshoring may bring about some real progress.
Ensuring an ample supply of PPE has been deemed a national security issue, bringing about an influx of federal money to boost U.S. manufacturing of nitrile exam glove production, along with a related project to increase domestic supply of NBR. The U.S. Department of Defense is coordinating efforts with the Department of Health and Human Services to provide more than $220 million in funding for three rubber-related projects.
One of the beneficiaries is Renco Corp. and its American Performance Polymers subsidiary. It previously was awarded a contract to boost production for nitrile gloves at its site in Colebrook, N.H., and a modification to that will allow construction of a new factory in Houston. Plans are to make up to 2 billion gloves a year in the new Texas facility, with the New Hampshire plant chipping in with 1 billion annually.
Renco and American Performance Polymers can lay claim to being the legacy of one of the oldest names in U.S. exam glove production. According to its website, American Performance Polymers is the descendant of the Tillotson Rubber Co., founded in 1931. It produced latex exam gloves that were invented by Neil Tillotson, a legend in the industry.
Renco CEO Rich Renehan said producers in the U.S. now can do what they do best: innovate, utilize the best technology and make things better.
But customers must realize something as well, he said. They must be willing to pay a little bit more to ensure quality and supply security. Because if they return to chasing the lowest price, the resurgence of domestic glove production will be over before it even begins.
Meyer is editor of Rubber & Plastics News. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @bmeyerRPN.