By Patrick Riley of the Naples Daily News

Posted: June 08, 2016

The one item American soldiers abroad long for the most — according to Rick Aab, CEO of United Sources Sought Inc. — is baby wipes.

“They really don’t care about the care packages of candies and cookies and that,” Aab told a group during the Bonita Springs Estero Economic Development Council’s quarterly open meeting Wednesday.

“What they request is these moist towels.”

Aab’s startup has partnered with Bonita Springs-based Shaw Development to produce a waterproof, sandproof and iceproof kit for soldiers.

The kits have odorless, biodegradable hygiene towels inside.

United Sources Sought will open its 3,000-square-foot headquarters on Bernwood Drive — down the road from Shaw Development — in Bonita Springs by Sept. 1.

With soldiers spending long stretches of time in harsh, inhospitable environments, personal hygiene can become a problem, Aab said.

“The maximum deployment for our military people is 10 days in the field,” Aab said. “Can you imagine going 10 days in the field in a place like Afghanistan where you don’t have access to water?”

The kit fits on a belt and in a tactical vest, and it can be stuffed into soldiers’ pockets or clipped onto a belt loop.

“Inside of it are moist towelettes for cleaning,” Aab said. “You can wipe your face, you can wipe your body parts. … You can take your shoes off and your socks — think about this — and wipe that off.”

Also in the kit is a powder ball with “extremely absorbent clay” that soldiers can use to dry off their feet, Aab said.

Patents for the product are still pending, but United Sources Sought already has a contract with the Department of Defense, said Denise Russell, company president.

Eventually the business plans to expand and sell the kit to firefighters, law enforcement and other first responders.

The past 18 months, the startup began its work in New York before conducting a national search for companies that could help with the development and design process, Aab said.

They found their partner in Bonita Springs — Shaw Development, which specializes in the design, development and manufacturing of custom fluid management solutions for heavy duty vehicles.

Shaw Development produces the parts for the kit, and United Sources Sought assembles the product, Aab said.

“They … have worked in the military environment for decades,” he said. “So they’re already approved.”

Initially, United Sources Sought is looking to hire five to 10 employees, but that number could climb to as high as 20 to 30 “within the first six months,” Russell said.

The plan is to hire veterans and disabled workers and start manufacturing the kits in July, she said.