Press release: Leather Brothers
Celebration began as Arkansas District Export Council announced six winners of the AEDC’s 2021 Global Trade Awards held on October 13 in a ceremony at the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion in Little Rock. Governor Asa Hutchinson, Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston and the AEDC’s Rudy Ortiz were present to give a speech and present trophies to the award-winning companies. The winners range from a leather dog collar manufacturer in Conway, to a global provider of high-quality vehicle accessories located in Springdale.
Leather Brothers, Inc., a fourth-generation pet product manufacturer, was honored to be one of the six companies receiving the 2021 Governor’s Award for Excellence in Global trade. Leather Brothers has been family owned and operated for over 45 years, and leather craftmanship still runs through the family blood as they supply quality products bearing the OmniPet brand name. Many of their product lines are proudly made in the U.S.A. by a skilled workforce, and supplied to an ever-growing network of dealers and distributors worldwide.
The award traditionally recognizes the exporting excellence and successes among Arkansas’ small, medium and large enterprises. Winners of the award are Arkansas manufacturing or agriculture companies actively selling in international markets.
“The companies this year were selected on a more challenging basis than years past. In 2021, we are recognizing exporters who through the innovative and thoughtful development of the export market were able to successfully overcome the economic impacts of the 2020 pandemic and retain at least 95 percent of their workforce.”
Chair of the ADEC, Rudy Ortiz, hosted the awards ceremony. Regarding the current global supply chain crisis, Ortiz said, “This is something I deal with on a daily basis. What we are dealing with is essentially a domino effect. A year ago, companies were battling restrictions, they shut down or limited production and things snowballed from there. A year later, production is in decent shape, not back to normal, but other factors now come in to play.” Ortiz also explained that the scarcity of shipping containers is a major factor in current global supply chain issues.
On behalf of Leather Brothers, Inc., Michael Schrekenhofer accepted the “2021 Arkansas Rising Star” award and trophy. “We attribute all of our success to our loyal and dedicated workforce which has worked together not only to survive but to thrive during the pandemic. Each person on the LBI team plays an intricate role in making our team successful and is just as important as the other. We are a family here at Leather Brothers, and we couldn’t have made it through this trying time without everyone’s hard work and dedication.”
During the height of the pandemic, Leather Brothers utilized part of their manufacturing capabilities to produce PPE. “We started making masks to not only sell, but donate to Arkansas Children’s Hospital and other surrounding hospitals in our community. We also donated to local churches and the Haven House to name just a few. We wanted to be there for our community, to the best of our abilities, during the turbulent and unforeseen times we were all treading though. When the world took a nose dive in 2020 and we were all wondering what would happen next, it was scary not only because of the unknown, but because of the invisible: ‘the virus’ COVID-19. At times, it was challenging, but we persevered. ‘God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble’ Psalm 46:1. Where mask production has slowed, pet product production has been on the rise! We thank God daily for our success in these times and give all Glory to Him. Being a manufacturer has given us the opportunity to grow and compete globally. Many companies that rely strictly on imports have been faced with severe supply and demand issues. We applied for the PPP loan, and were blessed to be able to receive this loan and use it for payroll purposes. We also retained our workforce throughout this trying time.”
Through his work at Leather Brothers, Schrekenhofer has had the opportunity to help grow LBI’s export business worldwide. “We now export all over the world, including Canada, Mexico and South America. Leather Brothers also has representation in the United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Australia and Japan to name a few.”
Governor Asa Hutchinson congratulated the winning companies for their “innovation and entrepreneurship,” which he said has made Arkansas “a special place in the global marketplace.” Gov. Hutchinson also issued congratulations following the event, stating, “The companies such as the six winners of this year’s Governor’s Export Awards give me plenty to brag about when I tell others about Arkansas. They not only took care of business during the global health crisis, they took care of their employees. The entrepreneurial and can-do spirit as well as a resolve to look out for one another is in our DNA. COVID-19 brought out the best in Arkansans and was on full display in the leadership of these six companies.”