A worker at the Revision plant in Newport assembles a ballistic combat helmet. The company also has a ballistic eyewear manufacturing facility in Essex Junction. Provided photo.
by Bruce Edwards Vermont Business Magazine Revision Military is bullish on its future and its Vermont operation. The maker of ballistic helmets and eyewear for the military and law enforcement recently announced it was expanding its operations, opening its US headquarters in Portsmouth, NH. Greg Maguire, senior director, government and legal affairs, said expanding to the Pease International Tradeport is part of the company’s overall growth strategy.
The former Pease Air Force Base will also serve as Revision’s Center of Excellence.
Maguire said Portsmouth is far more accessible to customers coming in the Boston area.
The company is working out of a temporary office at Pease until a new building is constructed.
“When we do establish that presence, it’s going to drive business even better for us and that will mean more production for Vermont and expansion for Vermont,” Maguire said.
Of Revision’s 400 employees, 300 work in Vermont with more than 100 engaged in non-manufacturing jobs.
Vermont remains the company’s operational headquarters for a variety of functions including finance, customer service, marketing, engineering, supply chain, and compliance.
Like many other employers around the state, Maguire said given the labor shortage it is somewhat more difficult to fill positions. Revision has 40 positions open in Vermont.
He said hiring Vermont workers is always the company’s preference but when necessary Revision has looked outside the state to recruit workers.
“We hope that Vermont with all that it has to offer will still be an attractive location for new employees to the extent that they’re coming to us from beyond our borders,” he said.
Revision is headquartered in Montreal where it got its start. From there the company expanded to Essex Junction where it makes its ballistic eyewear and then opened a second location in Newport to manufacture a line of ballistic helmets.
The Portsmouth location will also serve as a research, development and testing center, simulating as much as possible field conditions with input from customers.
“So it’s an experiential lab if you will where they (customers) will be able to work with our equipment in lab conditions where we can replicate sights, sound, all the things they’re going to encounter from an environmental standpoint,” Maguire said.
He added that research and design work also takes place at its other facilities.
Maguire said Portsmouth could also support some light prototype manufacturing.
Governor Scott, Senator Leahy and Congressman Welch visited the Newport plant last year. Courtesy photo.
In making the announcement in May, Revision CEO Jonathan Blanshay said: “Revision’s expansion to New Hampshire deepens the company’s already-well-founded commitment to US based operations and manufacturing. Moreover, this future location represents a bold but necessary next step forward for the company – indicative of both Revision’s ever-widening vision for innovation in soldier systems and tactical solutions.”
Revision, according to Maguire, dominates the military eyewear market, which is the company’s legacy product.
The company then entered the combat helmet market designing a ballistic helmet that Maguire said offers enhanced protection but at a lighter weight. Helmets are also designed as an integrated platform for communications, data management and other systems that can be worn on the head.
“We view that as a market with tremendous growth opportunities,” he said.
Last year, Revision was awarded a $98 million Department of Defense contract to produce the next generation of ballistic helmets.
Maguire singled out Senator Patrick Leahy, Vermont’s senior senator, for his help in landing the contract.
In addition to the US military, the company also supplies equipment to NATO countries.
Blanshay, Revision’s founder, got his start making protective eyewear for athletes.
According to Maguire, Blanshay was attending a trade fair in Canada when he was approached by the Canadian military who were impressed with his product.
Maguire said not many soldiers at the time wore protective eyewear because it was too bulky and lenses often fogged up.
So Blanshay came up with a design for lightweight, ballistic eyewear with the Canadian military awarding Revision a contract in 2001.
From there, Revision cast its net south of the border to supply the US military, setting up shop in Essex Junction.
The company’s eyewear has been used extensively by US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Probably one of the most rewarding things about our jobs here are the testimonials that we get back from soldiers whose eyesight has been saved because they’re wearing our eyewear out in the field,” Maguire said. “We have made a difference and that is very gratifying.”
In addition to Essex Junction and Newport, Revision has an office in the United Kingdom to support the British Military; Ottawa is home to the company’s electronics and power systems while Montreal serves as headquarters and industrial design center.
Essex Junction is also home to a subsidiary, Revision Military Technologies, which the company said is “dedicated to independent research, the development of innovative materials science, and unique engineering solutions, and spearheading sensitive military projects for Revision.”