Keeping up with state-of-the-art safety apparel and work wear

Alaska Textiles’ innovative and efficient business supplies safety clothing, uniforms and other industrial textile products
--A heightened awareness of safety coupled with occupational safety regulations has driven a need for specialized work apparel in many industrial situations. In the Alaska oil industry, for example, clothing may have to protect workers from flash fire exposure, electric arc hazards and from the severe Arctic climate.
--Alaska Textiles Inc. excels in the efficient delivery of both customized and off-the-shelf apparel and linens for most industrial applications. As well as supplying flame and weather resistant garments, the company can add company logos or other embellishments to work wear, uniforms and promotional goods.
--The company’s location in Alaska has proved to be a major benefit in developing an expertise in garments for cold-weather use. And, with its 8,000 square foot warehouse, the company can carry a large stock of items for rapid response to customer needs.
--“We offer a level of service that’s unmatched by anyone — our follow-throughs, our deliveries, and our ability to fulfil on what our offer is,” Clif Burnette, vice president of Alaska Textiles, said. “We offer flame-resistant safety garments... we have them right here in stock — we will put a name on it, put a company logo on it — we can do all that right here in house.”

Seamstresses and emboidery operators Nicy Haboc and Belen Salazar operating the Alaska Textiles emboidery machines.
--As well as conventional work clothes, the company supplies Arctic parkas, bomber jackets and Arctic bibs for use on the North Slope.
--All of this Arctic gear currently comes from Canada. However, Alaska Textiles is the sole distributor for a new brand that will soon go into production in the United States.
--“We’re working with a brand called Korbana and to my knowledge Korbana is the only flame-resistant Arctic gear that meets the specifications for the North Slope that’s made in the U.S.A.,” Burnette said.
--By working with the customer and the manufacturer Alaska Textiles came up with the required design.
--“We’re actually putting other people into that program now,” Burnette said. “... some of the other contractors are coming up and saying ‘that’s a great idea’.”

Embroidery, promotional goods and employee online stores
--Alaska Textiles can embroider logos, patches or names onto garments or other textile products. The company also does screen printing on fabrics.
--Experienced seamstresses operate embroidery machines and do garment alterations.
--“We have two, sometimes three, seamstresses that are consistently working,” Burnette said. “ We run 14 hour shifts a day and even longer during the holidays, to meet our promises — it’s very important that we deliver on what we promise.”
--Four years ago the company realized that it could use its embroidery and screen printing capabilities to produce a variety of promotional material, including customized bags, hats and shirts. These promotional materials have become a significant line of business for the company.
--In a new twist on this particular line of business Alaska Textiles has introduced its “Valued Customer Program.” In this program Alaska Textiles provides a customer with a web page for the customer’s internal employee store. Alaska Textiles displays on the web page a large selection of products carrying the customer’s logo.
--“It’s been a great success for us... and it’s a great program for a company,” Burnette said.

International business and the Internet
--Alaska Textiles sells products to locations as diverse as Scotland, Russia, China and Aruba. Burnette expects this international business to increase, especially with the proximity of the FedEx hub in Anchorage — goods can be shipped quickly and easily to many parts of the world.
--The Internet is proving a particularly valuable source of business outside Alaska.
--“Our web site is getting international hits daily and we’re shipping product to some parts of China right now,” Burnette said. “We’re known as a cold weather work wear source — if it’s going to work on Alaska’s North Slope, it’s going to work anywhere.”
--With an expanding business, Burnette sees a bright future.
--“We’re an Alaska company, we’re going to continue to focus on Alaska, but that’s not where we’re going to stop,” Burnette said. “Our customers... demand a level of service that they haven’t seen out there from anyone, and we deliver!”

Randy Siebert, sales manager, Clif Burnette, executive vice president and RJ Mills, operation manager, in the Alaska Textiles promotional products showroom.
A part of Alaska Cleaners
--Alaska Textiles started out in 1981 as a division of Alaska Cleaners, an Anchorage-based company dating back to the 1940s.
--Alaska Cleaners had developed a business in which the company rented out uniforms and linens to the hotel and hospitality industry. However, in the late 1970s the company owners noticed that customers were starting to purchase textile products rather than lease them. And so Alaska Cleaners spawned off a clothing and linen sales business that became Alaska Textiles.
--Since then, Alaska Textiles has continued its original business of selling goods to hotels and restaurants. However, opportunities in the oil industry and other business sectors have enabled the company to expand its customer base and its line of products.
--Although we started out with linens for places like local hotels, our biggest market now for those products is the camps on the North Slope, Burnette said.
--“Our chef wear and aprons that we sell to local restaurants also sell very well to the kitchens on the slope,” Burnette said.

Flame-resistant safety apparel and work wear
--In the early 1990s Alaska textiles started selling flame resistant safety apparel and work wear — sales of these types of product really accelerated in the mid-’90s and now represent a major part of the company’s business.
--Customers include many Alaska city fire departments as well as most of the contractors on the North Slope.
--“Customers will come into our showroom — we fit them from our sizing kits ... if there is customization needed we’ll do that, too,” RJ Mills, Alaska Textiles’ operations manager, said.
--Although Alaska textiles has been working to develop the Korbana brand for several years, local production of the garments has so far proved elusive — the Alaska industrial infrastructure isn’t able to support this type of manufacturing operation.
--“Who knows, some day we may be able to have them made in Alaska ... our owner Dana Martens likes challenges,” Burnette said.
--Meantime, the Korbana brand is demonstrating its commitment to Alaska by donating 1 percent of all of its sales proceeds to Alaska youth charities.

Developing new garments
--Alaska Textiles works with manufacturers to spearhead new designs for garments and fabrics.
--“We’re consistently looking at ways to reduce our costs and offer the same quality,” Burnette said. “We build prototype (garments) and put them on the customers — (the customers) wear test them and tell us what they think.”
--If the customers like a new design, Alaska Textiles will work with one of its manufacturers on what production changes are needed and ask the manufacturer to test the new garment — it’s critical that the garment meets the required safety standards.
--“We are the Alaskan supplier who brings cutting-edge technology in safety apparel to the industry. The product we deliver ultimately provides the best combination of protection, comfort and value,” said Randy Siebert, sales manager of Alaska Textiles.
--Alaska Textiles can also arrange the manufacture of custom designs for individual customers.
--“We had a customer who wanted to put kneepads in
their coveralls,” Burnette said, “so we had to design a coverall that would be able to fit the kneepads and still meet the safety standards.”
Written and Photographed by Alan Bailey.