HALEYVILLE - Exxel Outdoors, the leading manufacturer of high quality innovative outdoor recreation products, announced a major expansion of its production line and the grand opening of its first Military Systems Department, in a grand ceremony attended by local, state and federal officials Thursday, Nov. 29.
In fact, Exxel Outdoors, which boasts to be the largest sleeping bag manufacturer in the United States, announced the expansion of their line of cosmic mummy sleeping bags, to the tune of 100 bags produced daily at the Haleyville site located on American Avenue.
“We're excited about them because they are so much smaller, more compact,” noted Adam Hyde, recruiter for the Alabama National Guard, who was among the hundreds in attendance of the grand announcement and ribbon cutting of the new Military Systems department, which manufactures the line.
Haleyville Mayor Ken Sunseri welcomed all of the visitors in attendance as well as distinguished guests.
“Haleyville is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first 9-1-1 made on Feb. 16, 1968,” Sunseri began. “It is unique in the fact that the first call was done in Haleyville, and now there are approximately 240 million calls done annually every year.”
Sunseri added several years ago, city officials did not know if Exxel would stay in Haleyville. He then thanked all of the officials and leaders who made it possible for the plant to stay in the city.
“Over the years, we have faced numerous challenges with illegal and foreign competition,” Sunseri said, commending the efforts of U.S. Congressman Robert Aderholt and former State Senator Jeff Sessions in helping overcome those obstacles.
“I especially want to thank the employees here for their hard work and dedication,” Mayor Sunseri pointed out. “We would not be here today without their efforts. We are looking forward to a bright future here for Exxel Outdoors.”
The ceremony was also a major salute to veterans who were asked to stand and be met with resounding applause during a ceremony that took place before those attending went to the ribbon cutting and to visit the new department.
Kurt Wilson, vice president of manufacturing, referred to the large sign behind him, reading Made in the USA. “The products we produce here for our commercial products are sleeping bags, are definitely made here and we have the opportunity to partner with others offshore that allows us to make a bag that stays very competitive in the market,” Wilson said. “But when you are supporting our military, it's a different ball game, and that is everything that goes into the production of a component must be made in America.”
The vision for Exxel to begin a military program began about a year ago, Wilson said. “The group here at Exxel Outdoors has knocked it out of the park,” he said. “Every day of the year, we have people who are deployed. They are out in harm's way, but the one thing we are proud of is that we are providing them a sleep system that covers then, gives them comfort, warmth and a shield and they know it's made right here in Haleyville, and I think that says a lot.”
Wilson gave special mention at this point to the large crowd at the back of the room, the employees of Exxel Outdoor who make the line of products possible.
In a year's time, Exxel has hired 25 additional people, expanded their parking area and built a training room, where employees are trained in soft skills and leadership skills through their relationship with Bevill State Community College, said Wilson.
Veteran Paul Housel, field representative to Congressman Aderholt, thanked Exxel for their support of the nation's military and veterans and for choosing Haleyville to locate their manufacturing facility.
Joining in on the festivities was the Haleyville Elementary School chorus singing patriotic songs in salute of veterans and conducted by Vickie Bishop.
“We honor our veterans so much at Haleyville Elementary School,” Bishop said. “We can never thank them enough for all they have done for us.”
Josh Corbin, production manager at Exxel Outdoors, who also was once in the elementary chorus, sang an inspirational song during the program.
“I am thankful every day that I wake up an American,” Corbin said separate from his song. “I am thankful I live in a country that is built on freedom for all people.”
That freedom, Corbin said, is fought for by two million brave men and women daily.
The fiber for the new line of bags, married with the fabric with a quilt line, goes to the cutting department then to sewing. The bags are manufactured for veterans or those serving in often extreme weather conditions. The new mummy bags are designed with different specifications than other bags, with all bags strictly made in the U.S., along with being waterproof, thermal tested, proudly stated Lindsay Phillips, sewing mechanic.
See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.