President & CEO, KDH Defense Systems, Eden
His history: Herbener worked at Lockheed Martin for almost 20 years in the weapons manufacturing sector. He later was a consultant for the U.S. Navy and targeted needed gear for its rapid deployment force, which included designing vests.
Explosion of jobs: KDH moved to Eden in 2009, with the intent to hire laid-off sewing and factory workers in the area. The company now employs 400 people.
The body armor business was born when Dave Herbener started to experiment with ballistic packs in 2005.
"It was a little bit risky but something I had to try," Herbener said.
Two years later, he became a subcontractor for Ceradyne, a technical ceramics company based out of Costa Mesa, Calif., to build side pouches that hold Army vest plates. The pouches were sent to soldiers in Iraq.
His reputation as a ballistic protection supplier took off from there, and he nabbed major contracts with the Army and Marine Corps. KDH supplies the Army with its Improved Outer Tactical Vest (IOTV) and the Soldier Plate Carrier System, which is currently issued to all combat troops in Afghanistan, and the Marine Corps with its Improved Modular Tactical Vest and plate carrier system.
The company is preparing to increase production of the Army IOTVs in August, when they'll crank out 4,000 vests per week.
Another multi-year contract is keeping them busy - They were one of three suppliers picked to provide vests for U.S. customs and border patrol units.
Herbener said over the next year, KDH hopes to focus on providing armor to domestic and international law enforcement agencies.