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Local company supplies team in London Olympics

August 12, 2012
By AMANDA MAY METZGER , The Leader Herald

AMSTERDAM - American ingenuity is alive and well.

Just ask Amsterdam-based Saratoga Horseworks owner and President Michael Libertucci whose company is scheduled to be included in an episode of "Invention USA" on the History Channel, and also has been supplying the United States Equestrian Team with horse apparel since 1996.

Even though the human U.S. competitors in the Olympics in London the past two weeks were wearing the Chinese-made Ralph Lauren uniforms - complete with the iconic polo payer and horse logo - the horses competing had their choice of American-sewn - right in Montgomery County - apparel designed to keep them at peak-performance.

Article Photos

Michael Libertucci, owner and president of Saratoga Horseworks, looks over rolls of textile at the company’s Edson Street facility in Amsterdam on Thursday. (The Leader-Herald/ Amanda May Metzger)

"I think some of the irony that came out of this year is that the Ralph Lauren designed [uniforms] for the human athletes were made overseas, and, of course, that got a lot of bad press, whereas ironically the horses on our team are wearing products made here in the states, which I think is a great thing," Libertucci said. "It's too bad the human uniforms didn't get the same consideration. I'm sure they're a quality-made product, but under the circumstances, I think some consideration should have been made, particularly in light of the fact that we have a lot of unemployed people in this country that need jobs."

The company also sponsors a rider on the team, Tina Konyot, from Palm City, Fla., and her horse Calecto V. Libertucci and his wife, Adrienne - both equine enthusiasts themselves - met Konyot when she brought her horse to Saratoga to avoid the warm er months in Florida.

"I think everybody here who had a hand in producing [the horse apparel] or possibly seeing the pictures we got back from the games this year, they've all felt [proud]," he said. "In our case, my wife, Adrienne, and I are both very patriotic people and we watch the Olympics every night on television."

Libertucci, whose degree is in oceanographic engineering, started the company in 1988 for the Saratoga ARC. He was hired as an operations manager for the workshop.

"This company came out of their desire to have a product line that was sold in the free-enterprise system as opposed to relying on just government contracts," Libertucci said. "After being in it for a couple years they decided to get out of it, so I did a management buyout."

From there Libertucci moved operations to the city of Amsterdam, primarily because real estate was more affordable, he said.

"The workforce was more available. It was a good move for us," he said.

In 1999, the company bought its current facility on Edson Road after first renting space in an old carpet mill in 1991. Today the sewn-products manufacturer makes a number of items in addition to its horse apparel and accessories line.

The business works with equine companies all over the world to ship and export products to countries like Australia, Japan, Sweden, as well as within the U.S.

"In 1995, we started contract producing other people's products for them, so we're considered an original equipment manufacturer for those other customers," he said, adding that about 80 percent of Saratoga Horsework's business is contract manufacturing.

Libertucci also is an avid diver, and a good portion of the company's largest customers are in the scuba diving business.

"That's how we found our way into that market actually," he said.

The company has a machine that can make air-tight seams using radio-frequency welding, and it recently won a contract to produce Coast Guard-approved life preservers, which required the company meet stringent regulations.

Saratoga Horseworks also produces safety devices for water parks, and belts used to take pizza out of the oven for a pizza shop located in Clifton Park.

Saratoga Horseworks grosses between $2 to $5 million a year, Libertucci said, and the workforce has grown to 34 people.

"When I was a kid, I was always making things. I'd pull my father's tools out and start putting things together. I always had a knack for and desire to make stuff," he said.

Libertucci said in order for an entrepreneur to make it, networking, awareness and tenacity are essential. In order to succeed in domestic manufacturing, companies must be reliable. Building a reputation for quality and strong relationships with other companies is key.

Much of the equipment and the items used to make products in the facility are ordered from U.S. companies, with which Saratoga Horseworks has built a relationship.

Recently Saratoga Horseworks entered into a contract with a large musical instrument accessories company that decided to reshore some of its sewn goods.

"We were able to take a job away from whatever Asian country they were originally having the product made in," he said.

Despite the economy, Saratoga Horseworks has grown and been able to create more jobs.

"Our growth has come from not so much an increase in the economy, but the fact that a poor economy - such as the one that we've had - has a tendency to shine a light on a company's weaknesses and strengths. Because of that, some of our competitors' weaknesses have really come to the forefront," Libertucci said.

The key, Libertucci said, is to be "situationally aware."

"You can't work in a void. You need to be aware of what's going on in the world within your market and other markets, so you can say, 'Hey, we need to be involved in this,'" Libertucci said.

Last month Libertucci traveled to California to film an episode of "Invention USA." The two hosts of the show, scientists Reichart Von Wolfsheild and Garrett Lisi, search the nation for the next big invention. They connect inventors with manufacturers, and Saratoga Horseworks was one of the manufacturers chosen to work with an inventor on what Libertucci said was a life-changing invention. He cannot disclose any further information, as he is sworn to secrecy, he said.

He offered some advice for future startups: "Be creative. Don't' be afraid to fail. Expect to, but do it again. I think that some of the best startups are now created by people who have failed once or twice already. It doesn't take a lot of resources to start a company. You can start it with next to nothing in your garage if you need to."



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