Helping defense contractors diversify

Revision in Essex held up as example of success


By Jason Starr
The Colchester Sun

It’s a precarious position for any business: to be dependent on supplying the United States military, subject to Department of Defense decisions and congressional spending whims.

At Revision Military in Essex, the last five years have been about diversifying its products and customer base beyond the U.S. armed forces. The company produces eyewear, helmets and exoskeletons for warfare from its headquarters on Corporate Drive. As recently as 2010, the U.S. military had accounted for 90 percent of sales, according to Senior Legal and Governmental Affairs Director Gregory Maguire.

Gov. Peter Shumlin joined Rep. Peter Welch and Vermont Department of Economic Development Commissioner Joan Goldstein at Revision on Monday to highlight the company’s diversification and announce a $386,000 Department of Defense grant to help other government contractors in Vermont do the same.

“Many Vermont businesses provide high-quality products and services to our military,” Welch said in a press release. “They also provide good jobs for Vermonters and represent a key component of our economy. As federal defense spending declines, it’s important that these businesses diversify into new markets so that they and their employees continue to thrive.”

Revision’s first leap came with the acquisition of MSA Safety’s helmet manufacturing operation in Newport. The acquisition expanded the company’s focus from battlefield eyewear to an integrated helmet-eyewear system. In the process, the company cultivated customers overseas, supplying militaries and law enforcement agencies in countries allied with the U.S. through NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization).

“If we can achieve anything near what they have done we would be very happy,” said Goldstein. “They are a great example.”

Revision moved to Essex from Quebec in 2004. It also has offices in Luxemburg and Canada and is opening an office in the United Kingdom by the end of this year in response to winning a recent bid to provide U.K. soldiers with helmets and eyewear. The company’s latest product in development is a protective exoskeleton for soldiers — a “kinetic operations suit” — that balances mobility with full-body protection.

“Obviously, those who put their lives on the line are the core constituency of our products, but there are market opportunities in fire departments and rescue squads and in adventurers,” Maguire said. “There are going to be new market segments to think through and develop.”

While none of the $386,000 grant is going to Revision, the company helped write the grant application, and Maguire said it stands ready to assist in the diversification of other Vermont companies that supply government agencies.

“We know that other defense companies are challenged and may not have had the resources to diversify their market.   Therefore, this grant will offer critical resources to these companies and assure they continue to exist and thrive in Vermont,” Revision Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Blanshay said in a press release.