The Port of Grays Harbor’s newest tenant for its Coastal Innovation Zone held an open house to show off its state-of-the-art composite manufacturing and testing facility Thursday, and company officials made a special presentation of tactical body armor to members of the Grays Harbor SWAT team.
The start-up company, Reed Composite Solutions, develops new products and applications for composite materials, operating from the Port’s renovated Research & Development Building. Reed started moving into the facility in July, and Port officials said they were surprised the company was able to ramp up to production as soon as it did.
“We got a timeline and the lease signed and then they went into warp speed,” said Port Executive Director Gary Nelson. “What you see here today was actually supposed to be next summer. But that’s all a good thing, and I think it’s a harbinger of things to come with the success of your company.”
So far, the company has created 12 new jobs in only its second fiscal quarter of operation.
“We’re here today because of tireless nights and long hours by the folks of the Port dealing with our schedule,” said company founder and President Ryan Reed. Having the Port develop the concept of such a facility is “truly groundbreaking,” he said.
As part of the ribbon-cutting and open house ceremony, Reed and partner company Victory Tactical Gear presented 10 sets of tactical body armor the companies produce and market to the Aberdeen Police Department and its SWAT team of officers from Aberdeen, Hoquiam and Montesano.
The donation was made in honor of Hoquiam Police Officer Donald Burke, who was shot to death in April 1980 while stopping a vehicle he had observed speeding only moments before.
The start-up, known as RCS, has developed what it calls ReedShield structural impact panels that provide “superior protection for ballistic and wind-driven projectiles, explosion blast, forced entry and fire.” RCS also designs and manufacturers composite shields and body armor for military vehicles, police officers and defense personnel. It next plans to produce composite projects for use in the aerospace industry.
The 15,000-square-foot Port facility includes a Port-owned research and development lab with a number of sophisticated testing capabilities.
The facility was established as a “business incubator” with Congressional support from Sen. Patty Murray to stimulate economic development on Grays Harbor and in the region. Nelson said a Small Business Administration grant allowed the Port to purchase the building that is across from Home Depot and borders Port Industrial Road.
A grant from the Department of Commerce allowed the Port to remodel the facility, and a state grant provided funds for the piping and ventilation and lab equipment used by the company and future companies that might use the equipment. One of the more impressive tools is called a “rapid prototyper,” which is like a three-dimensional printer that produces parts out of resins.
The company’s co-founder and executive vice president is Joseph Kawaky, a former executive at another Harbor manufacturing firm, Paneltech. Majority owernership of the company is controlled by Reed and his family, who are from the Spokane area. The company also was assisted locally by Anchor Bank with financing and Greater Grays Harbor Inc. in helping to set up on the Harbor.
“Not being from the Harbor, to be welcomed with such a warm embrace by everyone here is just amazing,” Reed said.
When Kawaky and Reed first decided to form the enterprise, Reed said they had a firm idea about the kind of company they wanted to create. “We were both adamant that we wanted to not have employees, we wanted a family. We wanted to work together as a team, to have a community focus and not just focus on the bottom line,” Reed said.
Finding a way to give back to the community is why RCS decided to donate the body armor as a gesture of its commitment, he added.
“Hopefully, our door kickers here locally are going to be a little safer now,” Reed said.
The presentation of the armor was made by Rose Jones, an accountant and business analyst for RCS whose first husband was a police officer who was shot and killed in the line of duty. She is now married to Kawaky.
“As designers and manufacturers of composite armor, it was an easy call to decide that a donation of protective equipment to our local law enforcement would not only be a fitting addition to our celebration here today, but also something that had the potential to make a profound difference on the future safety and well-being of those who serve our community so courageously,” Jones said.
Reed and Port officials also lauded the government-corporate partnership that led to the development of the facility before the two parties even signed a lease.
“It’s really an investment in the future,” Nelson said.