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New Era to manufacture NFL hats at Derby factory

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

New Era, the Buffalo-headquartered maker of popular sports caps, is launching its largest line of National Football League hats since securing a license with the league in 2012. The hats will all be made in Western New York by more than 250 employees inside New Era's Derby factory.

Among those who came to Derby to celebrate New Era's announcement were Senator Charles Schumer and Buffalo Bills president Russ Brandon. The senator praised New Era, which sells in more than 80 nations worldwide, for remaining committed to Buffalo and Western New York.

"For Derby this means new business and support for the 250 jobs that the hardworking residents do," Senator Schumer said. "It'll be a point of pride as Buffalo comes back. This is another great moment."

New Era has held a license to manufacture NFL caps since 2012. The company makes hats worn by football team personnel on the sidelines at all league venues and has sold a limited number of NFL caps to the general public. The 100,000 caps to be made in this new run at Derby is, according to company president and CEO Chris Koch, its most ambitious NFL project yet. It will also put more focus on fashion, which has proven successful for New Era in its other lines of hats.

"It's not just about a fan that likes to wear Bills caps that he sees on the sideline. When he goes into the store to buy that cap, he sees a huge selection of other caps that he can buy," Koch said. "That's one of the things this plant specializes in, is making high-end custom fashion twists of a product."

The line introduced Monday features the New Era logo in red, white and blue, a grey military-style U.S. flag on the right side of the hat and further emphasis on red, white and blue inside it.

The company, founded in 1920, sells in more than 80 countries worldwide but keeps its corporate headquarters in downtown Buffalo. New Era made another recent gesture affirming its commitment to Western New York, buying the naming rights to the Bills' home stadium for the next seven years. The Orchard Park venue is now known as New Era Field.

New Era employs about 250 people at its Derby plant, but Koch says they may hire up to 17 new employees to produce this new line.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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