Specialty Fabrics Review March 2020 - 35

much of the manufacturing left and went to
China 15 years ago," he says. "We toughed
it out and stayed, even after being offered a
large amount of money to sell to a Chinese
company. We stuck it out, we wiggled
our way through, and we found different
inflatables to build to keep it here in the
U.S. and to keep our employees employed."
The market is starting to come back
quickly, Oliver says, "and it's not just
because of the tariffs. All of this business
went overseas, and they raised prices so high
that it got to the point where it got cheaper
to find what you needed in the U.S."
HIGH EXPECTATIONS
With technological advancements opening
new markets, companies that manufacture
and sell inflatable products emphasize
quality and creativity to differentiate
themselves from the competition.
"From our design team to our sewing
team, we think we're the best of the best
in the industry," says Jill Stolz, sales
manager at Inflatable Design Group,
which manufactures custom inflatables
in San Diego, Calif. Among the company's
creations is a 40-foot inflatable slide, made
for the Adult Swim network, shaped like
the head of Morty from the network's
Rick and Morty show.
"We have seamstresses that have
been sewing for 20-plus years and a
designer with a very keen eye who nails
it every time," she says. "That's what
makes the difference."
And, as is true in the rest of the
industry, the ability to deliver is key.
"Meeting deadlines is what's
important," says Meacham. "Customers
have very high expectations. It's the type
of industry where everyone knows the
lead time is short, especially if it's an
add-on or it's something that couldn't
get fabricated in a different medium
in time. But that's the discipline."
Jeff Moravec is a freelance writer based
in Minneapolis, Minn.

I N STA N T

You can't move mountains-but you can move an inflatable hill.
With new technologies available to inflatable manufacturers, many
products could potentially have an inflatable version that solves a problem
of its rigid counterpart. The trick may be to discern which commercial
applications will catch on. Creativity is great, but there has to be a market.
All-Star Inflatables Inc. of Dallas, Texas, has created a number of
inflatable products designed for sports training, says owner Paul Oliver
III. These include tumbling mats, golf simulators, a sandless "sand" pit
and an inflatable hill. Yes, an inflatable hill.
"The Inflatable Incline Trainer avoids the need to build a dirt or grass
hill for training," Oliver says of the structure, which is made from 18-ounce
vinyl. "Plus, it can be moved to where it's needed and is easily stored when
it isn't." The inflatable hill is also gentler on joints and ligaments.
Oliver has put a patent on the design of the device, which was in
development for five years before its recent introduction. The key to the
product, he says, involves another component that also has been patented-
the nonslip running surface used on the structure.
ABOVE: The Inflatable Hill Trainer from All-Star Inflatables Inc. in Dallas, Texas, allows
athletes to do hill training without the need for an actual hill, and is gentler on joints and
ligaments. Photo: All-Star Inflatables.

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Specialty Fabrics Review March 2020

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