July 11, 2017
Manufacturing Insights

Riverdale Mills' border wall proposal moving forward

Riverdale Mills CEO James Knott, Jr. stands next to his company's wire mesh. Growth in the aquaculture, security and poultry industries have contributed to Riverdale's growth.

If you ate lobster in Maine this summer, you may have Riverdale Mills to thank. The Northbridge company sells 80 percent of its Aquamesh product to lobstermen in Maine, and to other markets around the world.

Riverdale is in the process of a $3-million investment in its operations, and the company is also working on a design for the proposed U.S. wall along the Mexican border.

What is the status of your proposal to have WireWall used as part of President Trump's border wall?

Riverdale is looking to play a leading role in the design and construction of additional sections of the proposed U.S. border wall. We submitted designs with several complementary partners, who are the prime or sub-prime contractor, and we have, with our partners, advanced to Phase 2 of the project. Phase 2 requires the submission of a more in-depth proposal that includes production projections, a list of key personnel, pricing (confidential), additional drawings, and mock ups of the proposed wall.

It is important to note this is not a politically driven decision. Riverdale Mills believes if a border wall is to be built, it should be built by U.S. businesses, employing U.S. workers, with U.S. products. WireWall is made exclusively in Northbridge, and we believe it is the best high-security fencing wire mesh in the market. In addition, Riverdale Mills strongly believes in supporting a local labor force. For every Riverdale Mills worker, 10 other workers are impacted. Our products allow hundreds of thousands of security consultants, lobstermen, poultry farmers and construction workers around the world to do their jobs every day.

Has there been a greater demand for WireWall due to heightened interest in security fencing?

On average, sales of WireWall have increased 57.2 percent per year since 2007. WireWall is the primary fencing material along 33 miles of the California and Arizona border, guards the Kuwait-Iraq border, surrounds the U.S. Embassy in Panama, lines the perimeter of the Los Angeles Transit System and protects military bases, nuclear facilities, refineries, airports and prisons at more than 1,000 sites around the world.

For jobs such as the U.S. Border Fence, Riverdale can provide just the wire mesh or all the different elements required (e.g. posts, brackets, gated, bolts, etc.). Those items are not manufactured by Riverdale Mills but sourced in the U.S.

WireWall is manufactured using the same proprietary Galvanized after Welding (GAW) and PVC Coating process used to make our company's marquee product, Aquamesh. Invented in 1980, Aquamesh was specifically designed for building wire lobster traps and to withstand the harshest, sub-sea environments. The GAW & PVC coating process makes the wire mesh durable, rust and corrosion resistant, and ideal for variable climates and terrain. We expect a continued increase in demand for WireWall for the foreseeable future.

Last year you mentioned you were adding about 35,000 square feet of production space. Is that project finished, and if so, how has that helped you?

It has been an exceptionally busy year for Riverdale Mills. We are investing more than $3 million in assets to improve business operations, and we have been closely examining the untapped potential of our space, upgrading our existing equipment, integrating and utilizing new technologies to improve products and processes (for example, our 102-foot welder now produces at 146 percent), training employees to more effectively operate equipment and, as always, we are looking at our future capacity increases so we can continue to deliver our products on time to our existing and future customers. The expansion is still being completed and will be fully utilized in the fall of this year.

Companies all too often must choose between introducing advanced manufacturing equipment and processes into existing plants or shutting down operations and relocating. We are contacted frequently about relocating our operations, but the Knott family is from New England and we are committed to staying in and providing jobs in Massachusetts.

How has your export business grown since last year?

Export sales have increased over the past two years by close to 20 percent and now account for close to 37 percent of Riverdale's gross sales. The Central and South American markets are growing, particularly for our security and marine products, and we have seen a rise in Aquamesh sales in the U.K., Ireland and Europe, where the use of wire mesh (versus wood) to build lobster, crab and oyster traps is becoming more commonplace.

The global fencing market size is expected to reach $24.2 billion by 2025; demand for fencing products for transportation, commercial constructions and government premises is expected to continue to spur the high security fencing market. We expect WireWall sales will continue to rise accordingly.

The global aquaculture market is expected to reach $209.42 billion by 2021; Riverdale's Aquamesh is used in the construction of 80 percent of all lobster traps in North America, as well as for the construction of oyster trays, crab and crawfish pots, and a variety of fish pens around the world.

What are your long-term plans?

For 37 years, Riverdale Mills has produced technologically advanced and sustainable premium products in Northbridge for industries across the globe. Our future and the expansion into new markets will be deliberate with a focus on invention, innovation, the development of leadership products and customer service.

Additional capital expenditures are being developed to increase Riverdale's opportunities to compete in new markets and to be able to offer products that we are currently unable to manufacture.

Anything else you would like to add?

The quality of every product manufactured at Riverdale Mills and the quality of each customer interaction is of the utmost importance to every employee of Riverdale Mills. We are committed to keeping abreast of industry trends, working to anticipate the needs of our customers, and to ensuring our manufacturing processes never impede the integrity of the environment. The majority of Riverdale Mills' products are made from steel, the most recycled material in the world. Almost 100 percent of the steel used in the manufacturing of our wire mesh products is recycled to significantly reduce waste. We also recycle our scrap metal, wood, plastic and paper.

This interview was conducted and edited by Laura Finaldi, WBJ staff writer.


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