NORTHBRIDGE – A Northbridge company may be a direct beneficiary of President-elect Donald Trump’s promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Mr. Trump promised while campaigning that the U.S. would build the wall along the border to stop the flow of undocumented Mexican workers into the U.S.

But what if that wall was, well, a fence?

If so, Riverdale Mills in Northbridge might benefit from its construction, according to president and CEO James Knott Jr.

Riverdale Mills, a family business founded by James Knott Sr. in 1980, is the leader in the lobster-trap industry with the production of its most popular product, Aquamesh. This wire mesh has also become a staple in the farming, agricultural, maritime, construction and security businesses. The company employs 185 people in its facility at 90 Riverdale St. in Northbridge.

Riverdale has seen the use of its WireWall fencing increase over the past 10 years. Twenty-three miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border was made by Riverdale Mills, using its WireWall mesh, Mr. Knott said. The mesh’s design makes climbing difficult, if not impossible, and includes another deterrent feature, Mr. Knott said. The fencing rails are closely packed together, providing little to no room for anyone’s hands to find purchase as they try to climb, he said.

“We designed the WireWall with the idea that even if someone does have the capability to cut through it with wire cutters, it would take them a long time to do so, and by that time, they will hopefully be caught by law enforcement. We tested it out, and it took 40 minutes for someone to cut through it with wire cutters,” he said.

Riverdale’s WireWall fencing has been installed to protect the Kuwait-Iraq border, as well as the U.S. Embassy in Panama.

Mr. Knott said Wirewall flexible solutions can be implemented in many different ways to serve as border fencing.

“We don’t know yet in what capacity Mr. Trump plans on securing the border, but once there is a concrete plan, I’m sure his administration will let us know in what capacity we will be involved in it,” he said.
Riverdale Mills is located inside a former paper mill that has been transformed into a factory with top-of-the-line welding machinery that provides more than 3,500 different products to customers across the globe.

Mr. Knott, the company’s CEO, said that Riverdale produces more than 80 percent of the lobster traps in the U.S., using its Aquamesh wire. Riverdale also produces its Aquamesh for crab pots, oyster trays, fish traps and aquaculture pens.

In the past few years, Riverdale Mills has seen a 10 percent yearly increase in business. Demand is high, and because of the versatility of Riverdale’s almost 3,500 different products, they are used all over the globe in the manufacturing industry, according to Mr. Knott.

Riverdale’s success in having a globalized supply chain has resulted in the company receiving a 2016 Global Trade Award from the Associated Industries of Massachusetts. The company was recognized for its “excellence in global trade and its success in setting a high standard for global business.”

One of Riverdale’s challenges is keeping costs low while keeping up the quality of its products. Buying and using high-quality steel is an issue for manufacturers around the world because of China’s production of a large amount of steel.

“China produces the most amount of steel in the world, and many other manufacturers import from them because of the cheaper cost. However, our steel here is bought domestically, and all of our products are made in-house,” said Mr. Knott, who favors domestic steel because it is of higher quality and costs less to ship.

Mr. Knott further explained that Riverdale’s Aquamesh wire is galvanized after welding, as opposed to most competitors, which galvanize wire mesh before welding. The post-welding galvanization allows the coating to protect the wire more than with other methods, making it last longer.

The nearly 400,000-square-foot establishment is filled with large welding machines, PVC coating machinery, and miles of steel and wire. The plant operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. With demand for product increasing yearly, Mr. Knott explained that he decided to add a fourth shift to the manufacturing to keep up with the pace of high demand.

Riverdale Mills also takes measures to be environmentally friendly by using the dam through the adjacent Blackstone River to produce hydro-generated power for the factory. Additionally, to help cut down costs, Mr. Knott said that steel and other products are brought in through the Providence & Worcester Railroad, which runs through Northbridge.

Mr. Knott said the company hopes to hire more employees in 2017.

“We definitely want to be at around 200 employees, so we’re looking to add around 15 to 20 more people to help us out,” he said.