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Blake Waldrop CEO of RMA Armament explains the inspiration behind what got him in to making body armor plates on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017, in Centerville.
Kelsey Kremer/The Register

Blake Waldrop says his southern Iowa company makes the “world’s best body armor.” And on Monday, he’ll have the chance to show it off to the leader of the free world.

Waldrop, founder and CEO of RMA Armament in Centerville, will represent Iowa at a White House event celebrating American manufacturing. One manufacturer from each of the 50 states was invited.

“I’ve been in a little bit of shock,” Waldrop told the Register. “It’s humbling to be invited.”

President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and cabinet secretaries are expected at the event, a White House official said. Before giving official remarks, the president will visit with leaders of startups and established companies that make everything from shoes to candles to hydraulic equipment.

The event is scheduled for 2 p.m. Central time Monday.

Waldrop, an active Republican and Trump supporter, said he befriended the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. in 2016 before the real estate magnate had declared his candidacy. But Waldrop said it was a January Des Moines Register story that caught the attention of White House officials planning Monday’s event. 

In his garage in 2011, Waldrop began his quest to make a tougher body armor that could better protect military and law enforcement officers. A former Marine and law enforcement officer himself, Waldrop’s comrade in his company died wearing Marine-issued body armor during a 2005 IED attack in Iraq. 

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Now, his employees pump out more than 1,000 pieces of armor each week, selling to consumers and police forces from Los Angeles to Baltimore. He credits RMA’s unique ceramic grid for setting it apart from competitors. Just as engineers might design a piece of concrete to crack in a certain way, so too has RMA designed its ceramic to crack just the right way to absorb a bullet’s impact.

“I always tell people I didn’t invent armor any more than Steve Jobs invented the computer,” Waldrop said in January. “I just found a better way to do it, just like he did.”

Some of the manufacturers at Monday’s event will have the chance to show off their products in action, Waldrop said. But he can’t exactly shoot the ceramic plates full of lead at the White House like he does for prospective customers at his Centerville plant.

“I definitely can’t shoot our product there,” he said. “So we’re taking a lot of brochures, talking about the products and we’re taking plates that have already been shot.”

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