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Kent Sporting Goods adds warehouse and distribution space, more brands

Roy Maynard - Tyler Morning Telegraph
Published on Thursday, 17 November 2016 01:01 - Written by ROY MAYNARD, rmaynard@tylerpaper.com

Kent Sporting Goods Co. - the company that bought Black Sheep Inc. of Tyler and expanded its manufacturing base from life jackets to other water sports accessories - will soon open a 92,000-square-foot distribution center on Tyler’s North Loop 323.

And the Ohio-based firm will add more brands and products, including Arbor snowboards and Liquid Force wakeboards.

The expansion will bring the company’s total footprint to 270,000 square feet of manufacturing and distribution space.

“Our tentative completion date is Dec. 12, and that’s scary close,” Kent Vice President Hank Wiggins said. “But we’re working hard, and I think we’re going to make it.”

The new facility will be a distribution center for a number of the company’s brands, which include O’Brien life vests, which have been manufactured here since the 1990s when the facility was Black Sheep Inc.

“We’re still manufacturing the life vests here,” Wiggins said. “In fact, we’ve already exceeded a million units so far this year. By the end of December, we’ll probably have made 1.1 million vests in Tyler.”

Black Sheep came to Tyler in the 1950s as the Buddy Schoellkopf Co. It was located downtown until the current building was completed in 1977.

In 1988, Kent purchased the factory from American Recreation Products.

The company now employs about 130 - the vast majority of Kent’s total workforce of 195.

“We’ll be adding employees, but we’re not sure how many yet,” Wiggins said. “But we’re going to be busy. When we’re not shipping life jackets and wakeboards in the summer, we’ll be shipping snowboards in the winter.”

Tom Mullins, head of the Tyler Economic Development Council, announced the expansion during a recent Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce board meeting.

“Tyler is fortunate to have Kent Water Sports expanding here,” he said. “They are based in Ohio and have operations in several other states. The company chose Tyler in part due to our central location in the U.S., the strong labor force they have in place and the competitive business climate in Texas.”

Twitter: @tmt_roy