2014 American Made Outdoor Gear Award goes to Benchmade Knife Company

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The overall winner of Kokatat’s second-annual American Made Outdoor Gear Award is Benchmade Knife Company.

Open to all American manufacturers with a compelling story, the award was conceptualized and hosted by Kokotat Inc., the leading US manufacturer of technical apparel and gear for paddle sports.

“Benchmade was a clear standout among the fantastic applications we received this year,” said Jeff Turner of Kokatat. “Benchmade has built its brand and reputation from the ground up on its domestic manufacturing.”

Benchmade has been producing premium knives and tools in its Oregon City, OR, facility since 1988. In a market dominated by imported products, Benchmade has used their domestic manufacturing as a point of differentiation, and has built a reputation for innovation and customer service.

“Benchmade Knife Company’s story is not one of a US manufacturer finding a way to survive in a category that is largely sourced and price-point driven. It’s the story of a US manufacturer redefining and reinventing a category that was created, well, about 10,000 years ago,” said David Fee, VP of Sales and Marketing at Benchmade. “As a domestic manufacturer, we choose not to compete on price. Instead, we focus on superior quality, materials, service and customization. And more and more outdoor consumers choose Benchmade because they see that we deliver superior value.”

As winners of the American Made Outdoor Gear Award Benchmade will take one-year ownership of the “Sassy” travelling trophy — a hand carved, 3-foot-tall, redwood Sasquatch from Humboldt County, CA. An official “Sassy” presentation will be made on Wednesday, January 22, 2014, at the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market in Salt Lake City, UT.

Over 85 domestic manufacturers in the outdoor market entered the second-annual “Sassy” award program – a chance to raise a glass to the leaders in American made quality, craftsmanship and creativity in the outdoor world.

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 start that keeping production local was necessary in order to control quality and continually develop the finest and driest paddling apparel in the world.

“I began Kokatat at a time when there was no such thing as domestic manufacturing; all manufacturing was domestic,” O’Meara said. “In today’s global economy, companies have many choices for suppliers and manufacturers and it’s fantastic to see so many of them choosing American first and keeping manufacturing from becoming a myth like our friend Sassy.”

The 2014 American Made Outdoor Gear Awards harvested some interesting data regarding US manufacturing and sourcing. A sample of statistics from entries include:

·42% of applicants were founded in the last 10 years
·76% of applicants created new manufacturing jobs in the last year totaling over 500 new jobs
·Over 50% of the applicants reported that 90% or more of all the goods they sell are made in the US

The data also revealed geographical insights. Over half of the applicants representing 29 states hailed from six states: California, Colorado, Maine, North Carolina, Oregon, and Washington. Traditional manufacturing states like Maine, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania were well represented. A pocket of domestic manufacturing is growing in the Rocky Mountains with Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming accounting for 25% of applicants.

In addition to the overall winner, Kokatat recognized winners in several categories based on company size. The category winners will receive a miniature version of the Sassy award during the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market celebration.

Category winners of the American Made Outdoor Gear awards include:

Under 10 Employees:
o Winner: Lincoln Canoe & Kayak of Freeport, ME, manufacturer of canoes and kayaks.
o Runner up: Voormi of Pagosa Springs, CO, producer of technical wool garments.

10 to 50 Employees:
-Winner: RAMP Sports of Park City, UT, a ski and snowboard manufacturer.
-Runner up: Dahlgren Footwear of West Linn, OR, makers of performance socks.

50-100 Employees:
o Winner: Sterling Rope Company of Biddeford, ME, a safety rope, cord, and hardware manufacturer.
o Runner up: Diamond Brand of Fletcher, NC, manufacturer of shelters, covers, and bags.

100+ Employees:
o Winner:Polartec of Lawrence, MA, producer of performance textiles.
o Runner up:C. C. Filson Co. of Seattle, WA, makers of rugged luggage, apparel, footwear, accessories and headwear.

For additional information about the 2014 American Made Outdoor Gear Award visit www.kokatat.com/sassy.