After receiving a state PPE grant, a local Auburn Township manufacturer is doing its part to ensure Ohioans have access to personal protective equipment in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Essential Sealing Products, a manufacturer and distributor of industrial sealing and protective equipment, received a $243,000 grant from the Ohio PPE Retooling and Reshoring Program in mid-July, which the manufacturer will use for the purchase of a CNC machine and tooling that will be able to mass produce face shields.
President and CEO of the manufacturing company, Susan Pyle of Auburn, said she found out about the grant in early July and applied as soon as she could.
“I’m happy to step up and do what we can,” Mrs. Pyle said, who runs the business with her husband, Bruce – and their dog, Major. “Wherever we can help the community or the state, Geauga County, we want to be a part of that.”
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced the formation of the PPE program on on June 4 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The grant covers “costs incurred to acquire equipment necessary to manufacture PPE, retool, or construct facilities in Ohio to manufacture PPE,” according to the Ohio Development Services Agency. The program can award applicants up to $500,000 per facility.
Mrs. Pyle said she chose to manufacture face shields because of their benefits, which include being easier to clean, safer for young children and easier for communication, especially in instances where seeing one’s face is necessary.
She explained that while she knows masks are effective, they come with their own problems that a face shield may help resolve, noting the difficulty of wearing them in high temperatures, people wearing them improperly or their general discomfort, mostly with young children.
By wearing a face shield, she said this gives people the option to wear a mask underneath as added layers of protection, but more importantly the shield is a safe alternative to masks altogether for those who need it.
Mrs. Pyle said that upon receiving the CNC machine, the company can have it up and running within the week to begin producing face shields. As of last week, she said Essential Sealing Products expected to begin production by mid-August. She could not say for certain at the time how many face shields the company will be able to produce per day with the machine, explaining that the rate of production depends on the time it takes to cut different materials for the masks into shape.
Mrs. Pyle said the company applied for $243,000 to cover their bases for potential costs associated with the CNC machine. She said the purchase of the machine also includes the installation and about a week of instruction for its use, all of which will be covered by the grant. The grant, however, could not be used to purchase production materials. Anything leftover, she said, simply goes back to the state.
Making the face shields is no “money making proposition” for the company, Mrs. Pyle said, adding that the company hopes to initially donate face shields or provide them at low cost to local groups like retirement homes, medical centers or schools.
“Initially, we just want to get our product out there to help,” she said adding that the company can sell the face shields down the road to help cover any associated costs of production.
The grant does not restrict manufacturers from selling the products for profit, but recipients of the PPE grant must sell to buyers within the state before seeking out-of-state buyers.
“This is something nobody planned on,” she said about COVID-19 and the need for PPE. “Hopefully we don’t have to make [the face shields] for long. That would be the best thing. Even if this lasts and you’re wearing masks and shields for another year, hopefully, that’s the end of it. And if that business goes away, I’m not sorry to see it go.”