Get­ting their sea legs

Har­bour Grace firm sews up con­tract to make navy boots

The Compass - - NEWS - BY BILL BOW­MAN

Terra Ko­diak has signed a $6.1 mil­lion con­tract with the Depart­ment of Na­tional De­fence to make 42,500 pairs of sea boots for the Cana­dian Navy.

David Gill, gen­eral man­ager of the Har­bour Grace shoe plant, said the com­pany will be­gin to fill the or­der this week.

At the rate of about 300 pairs per day, Gill said, fill­ing the or­der should keep them busy un­til next May or June.

He said four or five of the work­ers laid off in April were called back to work on this project.

The com­pany laid off 59 work­ers on April 29, cit­ing a sig­nif­i­cant de­cline in or­ders from the fed­eral govern­ment, com­bined with a drop in de­mand for work boots dur­ing the eco­nomic re­ces­sion.

That lay­off came just a cou­ple of years af­ter the com­pany ex­panded when it won its first con­tract to sup­ply boots to the Cana­dian Forces. That con­tract ex­pired in May.

The down­siz­ing also came al­most two years af­ter the pro­vin­cial govern­ment pro­vided the com­pany with an $8-mil­lion in­ter­est free loan to help it ex­pand and hire 50 new work­ers.

Gill also noted 14 or 15 of the peo­ple who had worked on the old con­tract us­ing an older process of mak­ing boots, were trained in the new, high­tech process that will be used to make the new boots. The plant man­ager said they would have been laid off had they not se­cured this lat­est con­tract.

Be­tween 20 and 25 peo­ple " will work on this project," he said. That's about a quar­ter of the Har­bour Grace plant's cur­rent work­force of 96.

He said they plan to make some other com­mer­cial prod­uct next spring, which should help ex­tend the work time for em­ploy­ees.

The de­fence depart­ment will be call­ing ten­ders in the fu­ture to make footwear for the var­i­ous branches of the Cana­dian Forces, in­clud­ing the navy, army and air force.

" We're pretty busy now and we think we have a good crack at other con­tracts," he said.

Asked if any other peo­ple would be re-hired if they are suc­cess­ful in land­ing other de­fence depart­ment work in the fu­ture, he said, "it de­pends on the size of the con­tract. It's re­ally too early to tell."

Lighter boots

The new boots Terra will be turn­ing out for the navy are 25 per-cent lighter than the tra­di­tional steel-toe style. The up­pers are made with leather and bal­lis­tic ny­lon, the same ma­te­rial used to make bul­let-proof vests. They also fea­ture a light­weight rub­ber sole and polyurethane mid sole with a com­pos­ite toe us­ing a keu­lar plate in place of steel.

"The ma­te­rial is al­most in­de­struc­tible," Gill noted.

He said the slip re­sis­tance built into the sole makes the new boot ideal for wear­ing around slip­pery decks of ships.

He said de­fence depart­ment of­fi­cials have told them the spe­cial rub­ber used in the soles pro­vided the best slip re­sis­tance they've seen.

"De­sign­ers here in Har­bour Grace and at our On­tario fa­cil­ity worked on the de­sign for the new boots," Gill pointed out.

Fol­low­ing a tour of the area of the Har­bour Grace plant where the boots will be made, last week Sen­a­tor Fabian Man­ning said, "whether they're serv­ing in the cold Arc­tic or the hot Per­sian Gulf, Cana­dian sailors will be wear­ing these top-of-the-line boots made right here in New­found­land and Labrador."

Sug­gest­ing the con­tract, "should be of great ben­e­fit to this com­mu­nity and re­gion," Man­ning noted, "there are a few other con­tracts in the works and we hope to see a fol­low-up to this one."

Car­bon­ear-Har­bour Grace MHA Jerome Kennedy said he was pleased to see the fed­eral govern­ment help­ing out the lo­cal op­er­a­tion by award­ing this con­tract, which will help se­cure "a num­ber of good, high-pay­ing jobs in the area, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing the ups and downs in the in­dus­try."

NICE Project

Na­tional De­fence Min­is­ter Peter MacKay said in a press re­lease the new sea boots are be­ing made un­der the "Naval Im­proved Cloth­ing and Equip­ment (NICE) project."

The ini­tia­tive "aims to im­prove the cloth­ing en­sem­ble is­sued to sailors to en­sure they are prop­erly equipped for do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional op­er­a­tions in all ge­o­graph­i­cal and cli­matic con­di­tions," MacKay said.

The min­is­ter said the new sea boots will pro­vide the navy with "com­mon op­er­a­tional footwear suit­able for both shore and at sea du­ties."

Work­ers at the Har­bour Grace plant will start turn­ing out the boots this week, and the first ship­ment should be ready for the navy in two to three weeks.

Founded in the early 1970s, Terra Nova Shoes rose from the ashes of the for­mer Kosh Shoes Ltd.

It re­mains the only sur­viv­ing op­er­a­tion from a string of man­u­fac­tur­ing plants and fac­to­ries that dot­ted Con­cep­tion Bay dur­ing the 1950s as part of for­mer premier Joey Small­wood's plan to in­dus­tri­al­ize the prov­ince.

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