SHERIDAN — A business that started 35 years ago out of a garage has now evolved into pioneering and engineering for customers like the U.S. Military, NASA, hospitals, oil and gas companies, aircraft owners and the L.A. Dodgers.
This is Kennon Products, Inc. Their mission is to try to reduce any damage created by weather, dust, moisture, corrosion, sunlight, heat and any other environmental factors that can cause extreme repairs. Kennon has seen such success by engineering and constructing technical fabrics to create a solution for their customers.
On July 10, Kennon was awarded a U.S. Department of Defense Small Business Innovation Research Phase I award.
The DOD SBIR is a small innovation research program exclusive to businesses with less than 500 employees by 12 federal agencies. The award includes three phases. Phase I is a short duration meant to demonstrate proposed projects and if the idea is worth pursuing to committee members. In Phase II, companies will create a working prototype. Phase lll includes commercialization of the design.
The DOD can choose up to four Phase l awardees to contract with to see which concepts and companies best suit the need of a project. Only one or two of the Phase I recipients will move on to Phase II.
“[SBIR] sends out topics for new technologies in whatever needs to be done in society,” Mark Weit, Kennon’s vice president of strategic development, said. “The things [the program] need[s] are what will make society better because the general industry just isn’t providing for them.”
The idea that caught the SBIR committee’s attention is not for an aircraft or a field cover like Kennon produces for the Dodgers. Kennon has joined forces with WL Gore, creator of Gore-Tex materials, and Point 6, the creators of the No. 1 high performance stockings to create the next generation of extreme cold-weather boots for the U.S. Air Force and Navy flyers.
“We looked at a variety of technologies and we realized we know a lot about fibers, textiles, yarns and the things that make up the fabric; we realized there are ways to put heating in the individual fibers into the woven material depending on how you put it together,” Weit said. “We want very specific, controllable, localized heat on the peripheral of the foot to avoid frostbite.”
At first glance of the Kennon office, it’s clear they don’t make boots or socks. So staff automatically turned to WL Gore and Point 6 because they are the best in the business, Weit said.
“I called them and apologized and just said, ‘We have an opportunity to make high-flying military people, Mount Everest-climbing people protection to keep their feet warm’ and they were both interested in the system we’ve thought up,” Weit said.
Even with this new door opening up, it hasn’t distracted Kennon employees from their goal.
“I don’t always realize how hands on I am with materials that are so important until we get testimonies back,” Teresa Eyrick, a Kennon sewer, said. “We get people thanking us for saving lives from the products we make and it makes this job so special.”
Once on contract, Kennon will have six months to complete Phase I with a budget of $150,000. Phase II, if chosen, lasts two years and includes a budget of $1 billion for research and development.