Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ketchum eyewear company lands major contract

ESS glasses to be standard issue for U.S. Marines

Express Staff Writer

Brain Ross, ESS general manager, left, and Mike Vigueria, director of government contracts, display specialty eyewear that the Ketchum-based company makes. The U.S. Marine Corps recently selected an ESS product, Crossbow ballistic spectacles, to be a standard-issue item. Photo by Willy Cook

A product designed locally will accompany the hundreds of thousands of Marines who train, deploy and fight around the world.

The Marine Corps recently selected an ESS product, Crossbow ballistic spectacles, to be a standard-issue item.

"Every Marine is going to get a Crossbow," said Mike Vigueria, ESS's director of government contracts.

Ballistic spectacles are glasses built to withstand projectiles and extreme conditions at a standard higher than industrial use. They have a level of energy protection six times what is required on a construction site, Vigueria said.

The glasses, also used by other branches of the military, are being distributed this year and next as part of a "total force resupply," meaning all Marine units receive new eyewear.

The agreement is worth about $15 million to ESS, and may help it extend its reach to other markets.

"Other countries' military members want to wear what our guys are wearing," Vigueria said.

The deal comes after a monthlong field test earlier this year involving 100 Marines using six products from three companies.

"Ours performed better," Vigueria said.

And, he said, "they loved the style. It has a very aggressive look."

In 2004, another ESS product became the Marine Corps' authorized protective eyewear. That position has continued since then, and was reestablished this year.

"We reproved the reason we're in that spot," said Steve Dondero, vice president of marketing.

Dondero said the company is happy to be able to serve members of the military in this way.

"We're saving eyes and saving lives," he said.

Ketchum residents John Dondero and Brian Ross established the company in 1998, focusing on high-tech eye-protection products for firefighters. The company later expanded into products for the military, law enforcement and emergency responders.

"ESS is honored to continue to serve the U.S. Marine Corps' eye protection needs," Ross, ESS general manager, said in a news release. "The (test) team ran one of the most diligent and competitive review processes ever performed for eye protection, and we are thrilled that the Crossbow emerged as the preferred spectacle system for Marines."

Rebecca Meany:

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