One Maryland manufacturer has literally been to the moon and back.
Providing the unique patches on the uniforms of Apollo 11 astronauts for the 1969 moon landing is just one example of Lion Brothers’ broad work history.
More recently, Lion Brothers designed the patches for NBC correspondents at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.
In its 115-year history, hundreds of companies, labor groups and government organizations; athletes, collegiate and professional; and community groups, including the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, trace their patches and insignia designs back to Lion Brothers.
“We make the very best products in the world. It’s something quite remarkable, when you have that knowledge base and that commitment to making beautiful and extraordinary things. It’s really in the DNA of this place,” said Lion Brothers CEO Suzy Ganz
While the walls of the company’s Owings Mills headquarters are filled with framed patches and jerseys from notable past projects, Ganz emphasized that the company isn’t content to rest on its laurels. It is continuing to innovate and expand.
“We’ve accelerated innovation and came out with new printed products that were received really well by the market. Particularly in licensed sports, we developed some of the first digital textile printed products in our industry,” Ganz said.
Lion Brothers has developed groundbreaking techniques with the use of heat application and lasers to create intricate, lightweight and breathable numbers and letters for athletic uniforms. The company has also begun allowing individual users to interact directly with the patch-making process. For a Girl Scout’s final patch, she accesses a Lion Brothers-powered website and creates her own patch design, which is made at the facility and sent to her.
Innovations like these helped the company fare better than most during the recent recession. Lion Brothers avoided layoffs among its American workforce of roughly 60 technicians, designers, developers and other staff. The company also maintained its workforce of about 400 employees in Hong Kong.
In the near future, Ganz hopes to “re-shore” more of the company and grow its selection of completely American-made products. As part of that process, the company will move from its Owings Mills factory to another Baltimore-area location. The new plant will allow for more advanced technology and streamline Lion Brothers’ supply chain. Ganz said the move will likely occur in March 2014.
As the company evolves, Ganz said it will continue to focus on its most valuable assets—its employees.
“In manufacturing, people tend to think that it’s a machinery oriented business, but it’s really a people oriented business and people connect with the products they make,” she said.
It’s thrilling for employees to see the company’s work on the jersey of a professional NBA player or even on the jacket of a United States customs officer at an airport, Ganz said.
“There’s something quite magical about that feeling of ‘Look at that. I did that,’” she said.
Ganz said she hopes Lion Brothers stands as a symbol of the manufacturing sector’s potential for growth and longevity in Maryland. Her leadership in the sector led Governor Martin O’Malley to appoint her chair of the Maryland Economic Development Commission. Her three-year term began in January 2014.
“There are tons of opportunities in Maryland. Manufacturing is a sector with a multiplier effect, so it’s about more than just one job. Multiple workers are needed to provide the raw materials and retail these products. Manufacturing plays a tremendous role in making Maryland healthier,” she said.
Fortunately, she said, Maryland already has the tools to grow its manufacturing sector, including a valuable work force and supportive atmosphere.
“It’s a state where we have wonderful workers—they enjoy a high quality of life here,” Ganz said.
“As we move from products that were once mass produced to smart products, we find brains and talent here in Maryland. For us, being a manufacturer means we can connect to universities, labs and other places that bring us all sorts of new innovation,” she said.