Ayotte tours Dover camping gear firm
DOVER — Cam Brensinger wants his camping gear company to be known for its innovation rather than as just a producer of tents and sleeping bags.
Nemo Equipment Co. designs, produces and markets products — including the Advanced Linking Combat Shelter (ALCS) and Targa mobility bag both issued to U.S. Navy SEALs — out of one of Dover's downtown mills.
"Part of what's on my mind is bringing manufacturing back to the United States," Brensinger told U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., on Monday when the senator visited the business.
Brensinger, who started the company in 2002 before graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design, said there's a lot of potential in replacing sewing overseas with advanced welding or manufacturing techniques. Doing so would meet specifications for military equipment and open up opportunities for new industry, he said.
As this would require more sophistication than traditional sewing practices, workers would most likely require a technical or college degree.
Despite the company's success, Brensinger said it's been a challenging year due to federal budget battles and the effects of sequestration, which affects some aspects of the military.
"The challenge there is mostly unpredictability," Brensinger said.
While only 15 percent of Nemo's revenue comes from military sales, the innovations generate new outdoor products for commercial use, which improve all items, according to Nemo spokeswoman Kate Ketschek, of Revolution House Media.
After being awarded a government contract in 2006, Nemo's military sales were growing rapidly. Until 2013 came along.
Revenues are still above last year, though, Ketschek said.
"We didn't hit our ambitious 2013 forecast, but we didn't see a decline," Ketschek said, adding military sales led to an overall boost to the company.
Ketschek said Nemo expects sales to have grown 65 percent this year. "Our wholesale orders doubled over 2012, and we also saw growth with distributors and direct consumer sales," she said.
Ayotte learned of Nemo when she met Brensinger in July when they both attended a business roundtable in New Hampshire hosted by Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
She said legislators plan to hold a budget conference Dec. 15 to determine how the federal government will cover costs in the future. While she hopes a viable solution can be found before Jan. 15, she added the uncertainty is hurting businesses across the country.
"It ends up costing more in the end," Ayotte said.
Instead of using a temporary solution, Ayotte said she wants to help enact a budget that will continue to at least until the end of 2014.
Additionally, Ayotte said there's been a lot of discussion about allowing more flexibility under the decade-long cuts from the sequestration, which will affect 39 percent of the government.
As Nemo recently revamped its website and is expanding online sales, Ayotte said she is strongly against implementing sales taxes for e-commerce, especially since the lack of a sales tax remains an advantage in New Hampshire.
The U.S. Supreme Court has decided it won't rule on a New York state law requiring online retailers to collect sales taxes. Now the battle returns to Congress, where the New Hampshire delegation is united in efforts to block or at least amend legislation that would impose a similar tax mandate on all 50 states.