Irving Tanning Co have joined Sensible Solutions Inc, Oklahoma, to create a new product that binds leather scraps into a useable leather ‘fabric’. Hundreds of tons of scraps trimmed from the edges of tanned hides were previously destined for landfill. According to CEO Dick Larochelle, the new technology has taken more than a year to develop. ‘This product will change the face of this company drastically’, Larochelle told Governor John Baldacci during a recent tour of the facility. ‘Our problem now will be managing the growth.’

Larochelle’s son and company manager Paul Larochelle said that what had been a waste product will now become seat covers and side panel covers in Ford, Mazda and Mercury vehicles. ‘They have told us the sky is the limit.’

Founded in 1936, Irving Tannery have evolved into the country’s largest side leather manufacturer, turning cow hides from around the world into fine shoe, luggage and furniture leather, as well as leather for military uses. The tannery has annual sales of $65 million and the capacity to produce more than 25 million sq ft of leather per year. Last September, after months of manoeuvering and courtroom negotiations, Irving emerged from bankruptcy through their $14.5 million sale to Meriturn Partners LLC. Irving had earlier filed for Chapter 11 protection in the US Bankruptcy Court in Bangor after their chief creditor, T D Banknorth, withdrew their line of credit.