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Opinion: Product launch sets stage for new markets

Eyes & Ears

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New product launches are an exciting and intense time for companies.

Springfield-based Kuat Innovations LLC is in that mode. Officials are unveiling a truck bed system they’re calling the Ibex Panel Kit. And they’ve chosen a Las Vegas trade show to splash the market.

Kuat is among the vendors at the Oct. 31-Nov. 3 Specialty Equipment Market Association automotive trade show at the Vegas Convention Center. It’s a big deal. Billed as one of the largest auto shows in the nation, according to SEMA, the annual show typically draws 2,000 exhibitors and roughly 130,000 attendees – over half of whom are buyers, and over 3,000 of whom are media representatives.

Kuat is best known for its hitch bike racks for vehicles, and it’s already been covering new territory with the addition of roof racks – for water and snow gear, too. Officials say the new kit mounts directly to Kuat’s Ibex truck bed rack frame, and with a locking system for the metal panels, it’s designed to protect gear from the elements and theft. Access to the truck bed is through gas-spring operated side and rear doors. They expect the kit to retail for roughly $1,500, and the company is taking preorders with shipping expected in the second quarter of next year.

If you’ve been involved with a new product, you know the months or years of meeting, planning, engineering, designing, restarting, building, tweaking, branding, marketing, etc. It’s a heavy load.

Congrats to Kuat for producing something new. If you know Kuat’s products, then you know it’s a thoughtful and clean design. Ibex, by the way, are wild mountain goats that are known to be sure-footed and sturdy traversing rough terrain. A thoughtful and fitting name – if the product holds up to its standards. 

In a news release about the Ibex Panel Kit, Kuat CEO Luke Kuschmeader says, “Few products have excited the imagination of our team more,” and he describes it as bridging multiple categories.

The company’s another Springfield success story – but it doesn’t have to keep its operations in the Queen City. Already doing business nationally – through retailers like REI and Moosejaw, as well as smaller independent shops – the company also has gained steam in international markets. In fact, production is largely conducted in China, while the rest of operations – design, marketing, warehousing and wholesale logistics – are handled at the Springfield headquarters in Partnership Industrial Center West.

I remember Kuschmeader last year telling me in a live interview for the 12 People You Need to Know series that other cities are sometimes enticing, but he’s committed to Springfield. That doesn’t mean there couldn’t be a satellite office in the future, perhaps one of those outdoor-centric communities in Colorado or northwest Arkansas. I see the sense in that to potentially gain market share.

But to Kuschmeader and the rest of the Kuat team, I say let’s keep that imagination right here in Springfield – and continue to share it with the world.

Springfield Business Journal Editorial Vice President Eric Olson can be reached at


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What's wrong with manufacturing product in Springfield ? Got that nice big new building just for logistics and storage.

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