Yakima, Washington’s Liberty Bottleworks was named the winner of the first-annual 2013 American Made Outdoor Gear Award, taking the overall prize in a field of more than 50 manufacturers from all sectors of the outdoor industry.
Along with the overall winner, Kokatat recognized winners in several categories based on company size, two of which are paddlesports manufacturers.
In the category of companies with 10 to 50 employees, Bending Branches, LLC, of Osceola, Wis., maker of handcrafted canoe and kayak paddles, received first place.
For companies with 100+ employees, first place went to Jackson Kayaks of Sparta, Tenn., maker of specialized whitewater, touring and recreational kayaks and accessories.
Conceptualized and hosted by paddlesport-apparel leader Kokatat Inc., the 2013 American Made Outdoor Gear Award was open to all U.S.-based manufacturers with a compelling story to tell.
Kokatat’s hosting of the awards is rooted in its own history, as the brand’s founder and president, Steve O’Meara, recognized from the beginning that keeping production local was necessary to control quality and develop the best paddling apparel possible.
With more than 40 years of innovation, Kokatat is an independently operated, U.S. manufacturer of technical apparel and accessories for water sports. Handcrafted in Arcata, California, Kokatat gear is designed for paddlers, by paddlers.
Liberty Bottleworks began producing its American made, BPA-free, recycled aluminum water bottles in 2010 at a purpose-built factory in Yakima, Wash. From the outset, Liberty has been committed to making its products in America by American workers.
Many of the most innovative domestic manufacturers in the outdoor market entered the first-annual “Sassy” award program – a long overdue chance to recognize the leaders in American made quality, craftsmanship and creativity in the outdoor world.
As winners of the American Made Outdoor Gear Award, Liberty Bottleworks will take one-year ownership of the “Sassy” traveling trophy — a hand carved, three-foot-tall redwood Sasquatch from Humboldt County, Calif. An official presentation will be made on Thursday, January 24, 2013, at the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market in Salt Lake City, UT.
“It’s amazing to me that the reasons I began Kokatat and have kept our production in the U.S. are shared by so many of the applicants,” O’Meara said. “Their commitment and successes will ensure a stronger America and keep manufacturing from becoming a myth like our friend Sassy.”
“We are humbled to be recognized with the first Sassy and very proud to represent American manufacturing,” said Liberty co-founder Ryan Clark. “We make the best bottle out there, but it’s really about remaking our country’s economy and proving that American-made products can compete in every aspect of the market. We’re thrilled to win this award, and we’ll be just as thrilled to pass it on to another manufacturer next year that’s as passionate about this movement as we are.” The company employs 32 people who make the bottles from U.S.-sourced recycled aluminum on America-made machinery in the factory.
“Liberty stood out among the so many great stories we received,” said Jeff Turner of Kokatat. “Not only do they make a product in a highly competitive space that is dominated by imports, but they do so in a factory where the machines were also built in the U.S.”
The 2013 American Made Outdoor Gear Award harvested a variety of intriguing data regarding U.S. manufacturing and sourcing. A sample of statistics from entries include: 80 percent of applicants own their own facility; 74 percent of applicants created new manufacturing jobs in the last year totaling over 500 new jobs; and more than 60 percent of the applicants reported that 90 percent or more of all the goods they sell are made in the U.S.
“Every applicant, bar none, is bullish on the prospects of domestic manufacturing and believes that not only will they be increasing capacity at their company, but that the trend will grow throughout the country over the next ten years,” added Turner.
For a complete list of winners including Ibex, Timbuk2, Smith Optics and more, visit www.kokatat.com/sassy.