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Rhode Island’s Cooley Group Helps Israel Preserve Its Most Precious Resource: Water

An average backyard swimming pool can lose thousands of gallons of water per year to evaporation, so you can imagine how much water evaporates out of a reservoir in the Israeli desert. But impermeable reservoir covers manufactured by a Rhode Island company can cut evaporation almost to zero, saving communities millions of dollars as well as preserving their most precious resource.

The Pawtucket-based Cooley Group produces a diverse array of products, including the super thin PVC used on about three out of every four billboard signs in North America, super thick materials used to contain oil and chemical spills, and urethane boats used for combat missions used by special forces..

“You see us everywhere, but you don’t see our brand,” said Dan Dwight, the company’s president and CEO.

In a high-tech throwback to Rhode Island’s mill heritage (the company is located about two miles from Slater Mill, the birthplace of the American industrial revolution), the Cooley Group “takes an underlying textile and coats it with polymers” for various uses, says Dwight, who describes the firm as “extrusion experts.”

With annual revenues in excess of $100 million, the Cooley Group had humble beginnings, founded in 1926 as a manufacturer of painted cotton awnings — a business the company remains active in, today producing polymer coated awnings that are water and UV resistant.

Other lines of business include collapsible portable tanks, flexible dock shelters and warehouse doors, commercial roofing, and gas tanks for Formula One race cars, as well as fabrics that are hurricane-proof and fire-resistant.

The company currently does business in 50 countries on six continents, partnering with companies like Dow Chemical, DuPont, Johns Manville, and Teknor Apex. Many of the company’s products are custom designed for specific industrial applications.

“All of our underlying textile fabricss are produced in Rhode Island,” said Dwight. “We’re the last company in Rhode Island that still knits and weaves wide textiles” — some up to 5 meters wide.

The CoolGuard Oasis (R) floating cover is a specially designed geomembrane for use on water reservoirs and certified for potable water usage. Engineered with Cooley’s proprietary PVC polymer formulation, the cover is highly resistant to chlorine, ozone, ultraviolet light, sand and weathering effects. In contrast to inferior competitve alternatives, the Cooley geomembrane does not cure, and allows for easy welding of strong, reliable seams which will last the entire lifetime of the cover.

Water is literally what makes the desert bloom in Israel, and Cooley Group first had the opportunity to showcase its water preservation and protection products during a

Rhode Island trade delegation trip to Israel in 2011, organized by Rhode Island Commerce , the Chafee Center for International Business at Bryant University , Avi Nevel, CEO of Nevel International, LLC , Founder of the Rhode Island-Israel Collaborative (RIIC).

and supported by the U.S Commercial Service in Israel and the Consul General Israel to New England and Israel Economic Mission to North America

During the trip, the Cooley group connected with the national water company of Israel, Mekorot, as well as Admir Technologies, a fabricator of water reservoirs.

“The cost of evaporation if reservoirs are not covered is north of $2 million per year,” said Dwight. “Our covers prevent 100 percent of evaporation, so the payback for the cover is achieved in just a few years.”

Relationships were sealed during a meeting at the residence of the U.S. ambassador to Israel, and the four-day mission also included meetings with some competitors and eye-opening armored SUV tours to parts of the country that had come under fire from missiles.

“The political situation is part of the world we’re involved in as we’ve expanded into Israel and the Middle East,” said Dwight.

“We’re politically and religiously agnostic,” he added. For example, the Cooley Group also has signed up to do several reservoir covers in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt.

On the other hand, he said, Israel is “very Westernized. Their level of honesty and integrity is something you sometimes don’t see in the developing world.”

“Israel has a growing population and demand for water,” said Dwight. “It’s a classic example of how we’re growing internationally. We’re the only company in the world that can make reservoir covers up to 5 meters wide, and we’re the first to come up with a cover with a 30-year warranty,” referring to the 60-mil CoolGuard cover comes with a 20-year warranty).

The Cooley Group already is contracted to cover two more reservoirs in Israel this year.

“There’s plenty of room for growth,” said Dwight, who credits the Rhode Island Commerce Corp. for facilitating the trade mission leading to the company’s work in Israel. In addition to reservoir covers, Cooley Group has expanded its awnings business to Israel and sold urethane combat boats to the Israeli military, as well.

“We’re a family owned business, but one of the advantages of Rhode Island is that it’s so small that we don’t get lost,” he said.

Cooley Group is a member of Rhode Island-Israel Collaborative (RIIC)

To learn more about opportunities in Israel, contact the Rhode Island Israel Collaborative (RIIC) at or by mail to

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