JANESVILLE, Wis. -

An innovation in Rock County could lead to new manufacturing jobs.

Monterey Mills in Janesville produces fabric for more than 100 million paint rollers every year.

It's about 50 percent of the company's business.

"When the recession hit, we decided to turn our sights on innovation," said Monterey Mills CEO Dan Sinykin.

Now Monterey Mills is rolling out a new product, and it has 14 patents protecting its new collapsible paint roller.

Sinykin said that to make the new roller, their engineer, John Knight, had to create a knitting machine that knits fabric into a tube. The fabric is currently knitted pile-side out and has to be cut to be wrapped around a roller.

He said changing the way the fabric is knit is more cost-effective for retailers wanting to ship or store the finished rollers. Making them collapsible means they can go from putting 90,000 to putting 1.5 million in one shipping container.

"We wanted to make sure the innovation, the intellectual property, was protected so that it would protect jobs here in Janesville and it would protect jobs here in the United States," Sinykin said.

Bob Borremans, executive director of the Southwest Wisconsin Workforce Development Board, said manufacturers tend to create better-paying jobs -- jobs that he said could have a larger effect on the local economy.

"The fact that there would be an increase in manufacturing in this area coming from something that's as innovative as this product is really going to be a good sign for the county," Borremans said.

He said despite the unemployment numbers, things are improving for job-seekers.

"The unemployment number has increased and is back at double digits for the city of Janesville and the city of Beloit. There are 1,000 more people working in Rock County today than there were a year ago," Borremans said.

Sinykin said the company is already looking for some project managers and engineers to help get the product on store shelves. The company has been working on this product for about nine years, and hopes to partner with another company to produce the product.

"There are a number of companies here in Beloit, Janesville, Madison, Whitewater who we've contracted with to help us build that equipment. So I think we'll be adding jobs not only here at Monterey Mills but some of the companies we've outsourced to. To help build the equipment we're going to need we'll be adding people as well," Sinykin said.

The new product won a prestigious award from the American Brush Manufacturers Association and is being hailed as the greatest innovation in the industry since 1946, when the paint roller was invented.

Sinykin said the company is hoping to get its new machines in place later this month and to begin production later this year.