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Rocket Scientist Creates Over 1,000 Rural Manufacturing Jobs
J.C. Egnew saw a need and a great opportunity when he co-founded Outdoor Venture in 1972 in Stearns, Kentucky. Stearns, located in McCreary County, is one of the poorest counties in the United States. About 65% of the land in the county is owned by the United States Government, leaving very little property and land available to develop industrially or agriculturally or for the community to grow economically. As the founder of a startup company in a community with no manufacturing history, Egnew was successful in building a capable management team, using primarily local residents, and that management team was able to manufacture a new product, find and sell new customers and run the overall business activities.
J.C. Egnew, a former NASA rocket test engineer in the Apollo Program, currently serves as Chairman and President of Outdoor Venture Corporation. J.C. Egnew is responsible for the startup of 4 manufacturing facilities and the creation of more than 1,000 jobs in this area.
Outdoor Venture has used the SBA programs and services to help build a very successful business. Outdoor Venture grew from 25 employees by the end of its first year to over 180 employees today. The company received an SBA loan of $140,000 in 1976 to build a manufacturing facility; the loan was paid in full in 1996. The company is HUBZone certified and has had success bidding and winning HUBZone set-aside contracts as well as other unrestricted contracts.
Since 1972, Outdoor Venture, along with its subsidiaries, has manufactured and supplied a wide range of products, including tents, both commercial (family and recreational) and military, sleeping bags, and hunting products. The company was also one of the first suppliers of automotive air bags in the United States. That business was started in 1988 and sold in 1992.
Today, Outdoor Venture remains both a prime supplier and subcontractor of military tent systems, components and accessories for the United States Department of Defense. In addition to the company's extensive experience as a military tentage supplier, the company's management team successfully started an automotive air bag manufacturing business in 1988 and successfully grew it to a $25 million dollar business before selling the company in 1992. Outdoor Venture's air bag manufacturing business employed 175 persons and produced 25,000 air bags per week. Outdoor Venture's experience as an air bag manufacturer required high-speed precision cutting and sewing of high quality, zero-defect products.
Since 1984, Outdoor Venture delivered more than $260 million dollars worth of military tents on over 140 government contracts. They have received numerous awards for their innovative design changes resulting in thousands of dollars of savings to the United States military tent procurement program.
In May 2004, Outdoor Venture was awarded the Fiscal Year 2003 Contractor Outstanding Value Engineering Achievement Award from the Department of Defense / Defense Logistics Agency at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. for substantial savings in Value Engineering to the U.S. Government.
In addition to being a prime military tent supplier, Outdoor Venture "teams" with other Department of Defense suppliers to offer subcontract manufacturing services. Outdoor Venture's main headquarters is located in a new facility in Stearns, KY. The 55,000 square foot facility was completed in September 2009 and houses the majority of their administrative activities. They also have an 110,000 square foot facility in Pine Knot, Kentucky, only 6 miles from the Stearns facility. The majority of their manufacturing, warehousing and shipping is done from these two facilities. Also, Outdoor Venture has an affiliate company, Shelter-Pro, LLC which was founded in 1992. That company produces and sells Underbrush® hunting apparel to some of the country’s leading retail chains and sporting goods catalogs, such as Walmart, Academy Sports+Outdoors, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Cabela’s.
In 2011, Outdoor Venture was recognized as an SBA 100 company. The SBA 100 program recognized 100 companies across that U.S. that had created at least 100 jobs. The company also was recognized as the SBA Kentucky Small Business of the Year. Mr. Egnew, leader of Outdoor Venture since its inception, also served as Director on the Board of the HUBZone Contractors National Council since its foundation about 10 years ago.
Outdoor Venture Corporation, a prime modular military tent manufacturer and supplier to the United States Department of Defense (DOD) since 1984, is an ISO Q9001-2008 Compliant, HUBZone Certified Small Business. Mr. Egnew stated that the firm continues to seek opportunities to leverage its management team’s skills and diverse experience as the low cost manufacturer in the U.S.