WILLSBORO — A small manufacturer here is using its equipment to make a big difference.
Mimi Lane, CEO and President of General Composites Inc., said, once the novel coronavirus struck, officials began researching the makeup of personal protective equipment, like face shields and fabric and surgical N95 masks.
“We were deemed essential, anyway," Lane said. "If we were going to have people here and working, we wanted to help."
General Composites, which employs about 25 workers on Myers Way in Willsboro, is a composite manufacturer.
"We make things with carbon fiber and kevlar and fiberglass," Lane told The Press-Republican.
Though manufacturing for the recreation, defense and industrial industries, the CEO said about half of its production was medical device components for things like digital X-Ray machines or radiation therapies.
"For places where (medical professionals) need to be able to have a visual clarity through whatever medium they’re trying to pass through," she explained.
HUNDREDS OF SHIELDS
The small-scale manufacturer started producing face shields a few weeks ago using community donations, which local Ryan Hathaway had helped gather.
“We can easily cut the shields on our equipment," Lane said, adding that donations helped with purchasing materials. "They have been distributed to our local hospitals, centers, EMT groups and rescue squads.”
So far, General Composites has supplied more than 700 shields and has community funds enough for about 500 more.
“We’ve also received the testing certification to be able to sell those as a product to help with the need for face shields, as well," Lane said.
"We are working on getting a distribution line together.”
More information on donations can be found online at tinyurl.com/y76a3s64.
For about a week, General Composites has manufactured fabric masks, which can be used by the general public when going to essential public places.
“We’re approaching our local pharmacies and grocery stores in our area to see if they would like to place them there," Lane said.
As of this week, Lane said about 50 had been sold.
"But it's just starting, it takes some time to get these rolling and out the door."
In its research, the Willsboro manufacturer took note of the ever-popular N95 respirators, of which a national shortage has been sited.
The masks, used by healthcare professionals, protect the wearer from airborne particles.
“We thermoform, we fuse, we heat weld, we machine and assemble — those are all things used in making the N95 mask," Lane said, adding that some equipment had to be converted for mask production.
“We are a smaller size manufacturing company and we didn’t have the resources to make that conversion financially."
FuzeHub, a nonprofit that connects small and mid-sized manufacturing companies of New York with available resources, recently launched its COVID-19 Manufacturing Grants initiative.
The program meant to accelerate production of ventilators and those N95 respirators throughout the state.
General Composites earned one of two $50,000 grants under FuzeHub's Prevent the Spread category. The other went to Environmental Composites in Utica for N95 mask manufacturing, as well.
In addition FuzeHub awarded two manufacturers $100,000 grants to support ventilator and ventilation device production.
"When New York state called for help, our manufacturing industry answered," FuzeHub Executive Director Elena Garuc says in a news release.
"Despite the magnitude of the challenge, these New York manufacturers stood tall and found a way to produce essential supplies that will help stop the spread of the virus and save lives. We’re grateful for their determination in this fight."
'A BIG HELP'
Lane said, without the grant push, General Composites wouldn't have had the funds to generate N95 masks.
The CEO said it would take a couple months to get production started, but said it was hoped to be set by August.
"Then, the goal is to produce at least 250,000 masks before the end of the year," she said. "This grant has been a big help."
To help produce personal protective equipment, Lane said the manufacturer was also hiring.
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