COLEBROOK, N.H.—COVID-19 has spurred unprecedented demand for disposable gloves around the globe and has put a focus on the U.S.'s ability to meet its own needs as the virus continues.
And when Richard Renehan received a call earlier this year from someone in China wanting to buy out his company's complete production of nitrile gloves, he knew he had to jump into action. The CEO of Renco Corp. saw both a need and a business opportunity unfolding.
As far as glove makers go, Renco is not a huge operation in Colebrook, but plans are not to get much bigger very quickly to help satisfy the domestic demand for gloves amid the pandemic.
Renehan for years has been championing a made-in-America message just because it's in the country's best interest not to be so reliant on imports. When it comes to gloves, where more than 90 percent of the world's production takes place in Asia, imports dominate the market.
Renco, in its own little way, is out to change that a bit.
"I'm not a big anti-China (person). We are all the same. We've all got to do our work and everyone has to have a job. It doesn't matter where they are in the world. But there are hugely anti-competitive practices there. I think the world is aware of that. And there is (anti-competitive practices) everywhere. So don't get me wrong on that, either," Renehan said.
"But the point is they did call and ask to buy all of our capacity. I did call DoD (Department of Defense) and said this is a problem. We need to take this seriously," he remembered.
Renehan called anyone he could think of in the federal government, talked about the need to expand domestic production and sought contracts that would allow his company to provide more domestic supply. When news came this summer that the DoD awarded his company a $22 million contract, the door opened for Renco to dramatically expand.
Not only is the company improving existing manufacturing lines, it's adding about 95,000 square feet of space to install two new high-speed lines. They each will measure about 450 feet in length.
The goal is to increase production by about 20 times between the two efforts to about 500 million gloves per year. Ultimately, the CEO said the company could have the ability to produce about 1.2 million gloves per year out of the New Hampshire facility with further expansion.
But Renehan also sees potential beyond the Colebrook site, which operates as American Performance Polymers L.L.C., and hopes to one day expand to other locations in the U.S.