NORTH HAMPTON — U.S. Rep. Carol-Shea Porter, D-New Hampshire, was in town on Monday to learn more about a new textile manufactured by Cocoon that could help protect soldiers from harmful air pollutants.
The family-owned company is working on a fabric that would filter out pollutants such as sand and smoke from the air that soldiers breathe. It is also anti-microbial and “hydrophobic” meaning it repels water and does not freeze. The fabric is based on a textile Cocoon created to protect military equipment that is already in use.
Shea-Porter said these kinds of materials are necessary for military readiness, and also help the government save money by reducing maintenance and repair costs.
In addition to talking about the company’s products, Cocoon co-founder Leo “Chip” Crotty also spoke with Shea-Porter about the impact the government shutdown had on the business, and the impact sequestration continues to have. Shea-Porter said she has opposed across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration, which are scheduled to continue and increase over the next nine years.
Crotty said the shutdown effectively shut down the company, costing about $11,000 in just one week.
But Crotty is confident the company has unique products that offer a health benefit for soldiers and cost-savings for the government that will keep it going well into the future.
It will be up to the military to decide whether to use Cocoon’s latest product. Right now, it is undergoing testing at an Army textile development facility in Natick, Mass. Crotty said Cocoon is close to sending about 100 products into the field for further testing and feedback from the men and women who will ultimately use the products.
Crotty said Shea-Porter’s office has provided good guidance on the process Cocoon needs to go through to get approval from the military for use.
Crotty said he believes in “boots on the ground” and spends time in the field with his clients, including members of the military, to see what their needs are.
It was on such trips to Balad, Iraq, and to Afghanistan that he realized the magnitude of the sand and air pollutant problem and decided to solve it.
The fabric has to serve as a filter while also being highly air permeable and comfortable to wear.
The company is also working on other products, including a liner for Chinook helicopters developed by Crotty’s brother, Mark, that will greatly reduce the weight thereby increasing fuel efficiency and saving money.
All of Crotty’s five living siblings are involved with the company in one way or another. Cocoon was co-founded by his father and originally focused on “mothballing” military ships.
Cocoon employs about 20 people in North Hampton and also has a facility in North Carolina.