In this role, he has worked closely with Birmingham attorney Brian Rell, who heads a procurement task force set up by the governor. David Klementz, chief strategy and development officer at Birmingham’s Encompass, has built a database to advance BAMA’s efforts. Officials from Alabama Power and the Business Council of Alabama have also been active.
“Secretary Canfield quickly recognized the PPE supply chain problem and immediately began to work with our in-state manufacturers to retool their operations to meet the needs of our health care workers,” said Rell, Congressman Robert Aderholt’s former Chief of Staff who was tapped to lead Governor Ivey’s ad hoc Strategic Assets group that was tasked with PPE procurement.
“From sourcing much needed manufacturing components for in-state business to helping companies navigate the government processes for acceptance, Greg had his sleeves rolled up to help them be successful,” he added.
The BAMA team identified around 50 homegrown companies that have the potential to produce PPE to meet emergency demand, while some could make a long-term shift to permanent production.
“I have worked on everything from helping source raw materials for companies to connecting companies for the purposes of linking them for production and working to launch startups,” Secretary Canfield said. “In addition, Commerce is working two projects at this point related to BAMA activity.”
One of those is HomTex Inc., a Cullman-based family firm that manufactures bed linens and other items. As orders for its traditional products dried up, company officials transitioned production to reusable cotton face masks, and orders began pouring in.
Supported by the Alabama Department of Commerce and local economic development officials, HomTex now plans to invest $5 million to install equipment to produce medical-grade surgical masks as a permanent domestic supplier. Read a story about the company’s plans.
Secretary Canfield said Commerce has embraced recruiting PPE producers as a new strategy that aligns with the urgent need to establish a domestic pipeline for the production of these critical materials.
As with HomTex, some of these targets already have operations in the state that can be reconfigured to produce protective equipment or medical supplies.
“A decision to make a change like this is never easy and has to be part of a long-term move for a company,” Secretary Canfield said. “There can be high capital costs to acquire new equipment and machinery, along with labor costs for training and hiring new workers.”
Meanwhile, BAMA and its allies have worked with many Alabama companies, especially small manufacturers, to help them make a contribution in the fight against the coronavirus.
These companies have shifted production lines to turn out protective face shields and other items essential for health care workers, even if the production move isn’t planned to become permanent, Secretary Canfield said.
- Aptar CSP Technologies in Auburn has developed a N95 mask personal disinfecting system that allows the high-grade masks to be reused. The company is seeking FDA approval for the process.
- Renfro’s operating plant in Ft. Payne is expanding into reusable cloth masks designed with assistance from Wake Forest Baptist Health. Secretary Canfield is working with the company to see if the shift has long-term potential.
- Huntsville’s GATR is working with UAH engineers to develop a ventilator that uses the unique pump technology used in the company’s inflatable communications balloons.
- Mobile’s Calagaz Printing, whose business primarily centers on printing menus and other items for restaurant chains, shifted production to face shields, quickly turning out more than 150,000 of them. Secretary Canfield has begun exploratory talks focusing on the possibility of the company entering this market on a permanent basis.
“From our perspective, we’re trying to do everything we can to identify and utilize the assets that we have in the state that can provide us with or produce the medical equipment and medical supplies that are needed during this crisis and beyond,” Secretary Canfield said.
Many of the state’s largest employers have also contributed through producing PPE such as face shields or making donations, including Hyundai, which coordinated the delivery of 10,000 COVID-19 test kits from South Korea.