Tyler, TX 75702
As the manufacturing arm of East Texas Lighthouse for the Blind, Horizon Industries is one of the largest converters of industrial wiping towels and paracord for the United States government. Established in 1976, the Tyler, TX-based company’s mission is “Empowering Blind Americans.”
Horizon Industries is a non-profit business and works under a piece of legislation called the AbilityOne Program, formerly known as the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act. This legislation was passed to provide employment opportunities to people with disabilities by authorizing them to manufacture products to sell to the Federal government.
Lee Tillson, Horizon Industries’ vice president of operations, says through this program, the company is able to sell to the Federal government as long as 75% or more of its direct labor workforce meets the Federal definition of legal blindness. “We have 33 direct labor employees now, and 81% of those meet the Federal definition of legal blindness,” he says. “As a visually impaired person in a leadership position, it’s very rewarding working to create a sustainable business environment for blind and visually impaired associates in our company. [These associates] are dedicated to continuous improvement and committed to offering our customers the best quality product in the industry.”
In 1977, an affiliation with National Industries for the Blind (NIB) gave the new company access to products being developed by the NIB for various federal agencies. An initial contract to sew and package dental chair headrests was obtained from the General Services Administration (GSA), and soonafter the company also began manufacturing nonwoven dental bibs. In the early 1980s, because of the association with NIB, the company acquired the production of industrial grade nonwoven wiping towels.
Today, Horizon, which currently has eight government contracts and also does some contract converting for commercial companies, produces a majority of its tissue and nonwoven-based industrial wipers using recycled fibers since these materials meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s requirements for the Federal government.
Offering both flat packs and pop up wipers, Horizon’s products include a variety of medium duty airlaid wipers and heavy duty meltblown polypropylene wipers. Heavy duty wipers made with Sontara spunlace are being used by the military to clean aircraft canopies, according to Tillson, and Horizon also co-brands with Kimberly-Clark by converting X70 Hydroknit WyPall Wipers that are sold to the government.
In recent years, the company enhanced its capabilities by investing in a 40-inch Cheetah interfolder, as well as a two-lane LCI napkin folder. “This has really improved our capacity,” Tillson says. Further, a new Orbital Log Saw Machine purchased in 2016 added efficiencies and increased product throughput for Horizon’s delicate task lens wipers product line.
Celebrating its 40th anniversary last year, Horizon and the East Texas Lighthouse team earned special recognition from U.S. Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn and Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
“With added capacity, updated equipment and a dedicated work force, the future of Horizon is bright,” says Tillson.