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Abdullah of Saudi Arabia

Abdullah of Saudi Arabia: Blue Ash firm clothes Saudi guards

Abdullah of Saudi Arabia 50%

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BLUE ASH – It’s not every day a company can add the king of Saudi Arabia to its list of customers.


Earlier this year, 17,000 members of the Royal Guard of Saudi Arabia donned hunter green and cream dress uniforms adorned with shiny gold buttons and green and gold badges, each with the crest of the Middle Eastern country’s royal family.

Fechheimer may not be the region’s most renowned uniform manufacturer; Cintas, after all, is much larger. But it’s the largest manufacturer and distributor of military and law enforcement uniforms in the United States. And the late 2008 deal with Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, to clothe his protective force, entered the largely domestic firm into global territory.

The contract was worth millions of dollars, although Fechheimer officials wouldn’t give an exact figure. The company normally charges $250 to $350 for a wool blend dress uniform (jacket and trouser).

“The King told the force, ‘You guys don’t look so good. Go find somebody that makes uniforms for the people who look good,’ ” said Fechheimer CEO Bob Getto.

Fechheimer, founded in 1842 in the R.L. Polk building downtown, has for years designed and manufactured the dress uniforms for the U.S. Navy, Naval Academy and Marine Corps. The U.S. Department of Commerce contacted the company in November 2007 with the Saudi request to design samples and submit a proposal.

Getto had just joined the company from one of its largest suppliers, Burlington Industries. He’d immediately noticed the longstanding company’s untapped potential. It hadn’t touched the international market since the early 1990s. More important, it hadn’t taken advantage of the wide draw of its parent company, the Warren Buffett-run Berkshire Hathaway.

“I thought this has to be meaningful somewhere else. We can play a bigger game,” Getto said.


So he got Rob Portman on the phone to ask for help. When he’s not campaigning to become Ohio’s next U.S. senator, Portman works for the Cincinnati office of Squire, Sanders & Dempsey LLP, a law firm with offices in 24 countries. Portman helped connect with Ziad G. El-Khoury, a lawyer in Beirut, Lebanon, to learn the rules and regulations of working with the Saudi government.

“It was exactly the kind of project I love doing,” Portman said. “It’s a company not shy about accessing consumers where they are, including the 95 percent of consumers in the world who live outside our borders. By doing that, they are creating good US jobs.”

Fechheimer beat proposals from companies in France and Italy. Winning the multi-million dollar deal has accelerated the firm’s influence overseas. It is designing samples for three countries’ armed forces, two of which would be larger than the Saudi force.

“To know that we can work on a world stage is really good for the soul,” Getto said.
Besides growing the company internationally, Getto hopes to bring the new product to existing customers. He hired recent graduates of the University of Cincinnati’s design program to create a line for the off-duty officer called Vertx.

He calls the line, comprised of casual polos, jackets, sweatshirts and cargo pants, a lifestyle brand for those in the military or law enforcement. Fechheimer will test out new “‘coldblack” technology on these items when they ship July 1. That’s a fabric with dark colored dyes that still repel light.

“Our uniforms have to perform like gear, so we continue to add features and benefits, like coolness,” he said.

Randy Loftspring, president of Roy Tailors Uniform Co. in Queensgate, expects those items to sell well. Casual wear has become popular among his law enforcement and postal worker clients.

They also appreciate that Fechheimer still makes its jackets, coats and shirts in plants in Kentucky and Maryland. And the boots, badges, hats, belts and buckles that come along with Fechheimer products are almost all made by U.S. manufacturers.

“A lot of their. products are still made in the U.S. and union made,” Loftspring said. “We have a customer base that still demands that.”


Source: Cincinnati.com -

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