Ohio Distributes More Than 30M Pieces of PPE; Gojo Expands

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — During his daily briefing Tuesday, Gov. Mike DeWine touted the state’s efforts in purchasing, producing and distributing more than 30 million pieces of personal protective equipment as of last week.

DeWine says the equipment was sourced from donations and purchases by JobsOhio from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as well as purchases by state agencies – including the Department of Administrative Services, Department of Health and the Department of Public Safety – using federal Cares Act funds.

Of the equipment acquired, 27.8 million pieces have been shipped to county emergency management agencies for local distribution. Accumulating and distributing the equipment is “still a work in progress,” DeWine said.

“In addition to these early buys, we are looking at long-term solutions to the supply chain,” he said. “A supply chain that has certainly been plagued with problems that other governors throughout the country and the federal government have certainly run into.”

Some of those efforts include longer-term contracts for ventilators and N-95 respirator masks, as well as a recent invitation to bid for gloves, gowns and three-ply masks, he said.

The Protecting Ohio’s Workforce: We’ve Got You Covered initiative, run through the state Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, has seen more than 1.5 million face coverings distributed thus far to Ohio businesses. DeWine announced the initiative on May 19 to distribute nonmedical-grade face coverings to public and private businesses.

The state has also provided personal protective equipment to state institutional agencies, “to ensure they have a 90-day supply,” as well as to the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services through the Office of Pharmacy Services, DeWine added.

“These efforts, coupled with the partnerships we forged through the Ohio Manufacturing Alliance – whose work has resulted in face shields, cloth masks, isolation gowns and sanitizers – is truly positioning Ohio to be better prepared as we move forward in the future,” he said.

Gojo Industries headquarters in Akron. (Image: Gojo Industries Inc.)

Gojo Industries Inc., an Akron-based member of the alliance that produces Purell hand sanitizer, has been working with JobsOhio and announced Tuesday it is expanding into Navarre and Maple Heights to meet the demand for its products, DeWine said.

“This announcement today will increase their footprint to four manufacturing sites in Ohio,” he said. “And with the expansions announced today, Gojo is expected to create 200 new jobs. And this is certainly great news for Ohio.”

Gojo has been running its manufacturing operations in Cuyahoga Falls and Wooster 24/7, has increased its raw materials and component supplies, and formed “creative partnerships” with other companies to direct more bottles and caps its way, according to a company release. Through those efforts, the company is producing “more than two times” what it did prior to the pandemic.

“We believe the world will forever be changed by this pandemic and we see this translating to a sustained increase in awareness of the importance of safe and effective hygiene practices,” said Gojo President and CEO Carey Jaros. “This will result in ongoing, heightened demand for our essential Purell skincare and surface solutions. In service of our Gojo Purpose, Saving Lives and Making Life Better, our responsibility to keep the world healthy and well has never been greater. Expanding our manufacturing infrastructure is one of the many ways we are responding as the market leader in these challenging times.”

The company signed a lease agreement for a storage and distribution center in Navarre and purchased a 325,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Maple Heights, according to the release. The Maple Heights location will produce Purell Surface Spray, which Gojo launched in 2016. The spray has been recognized in the industry as a no-rinse spray for food contact surfaces with the “lowest possible toxicity (Category IV), while effectively killing bacteria, mold, mildew, fungi, and dozens of viruses, including Influenza and Norovirus,” according to the release.

Gojo also maintains a number of manufacturing plants in France. Globally, the company employs more than 2,500.

“We are thrilled that one of the most essential companies in our region is expanding their manufacturing capabilities in Maple Heights,” said Maple Heights Mayor Annette Blackwell. “Gojo is a growing business that makes products that matter, with deep roots in Northeast Ohio. Its selection of Maple Heights to expand operations is a testament to the resources and local advantages provided by our city and the region.”

JobsOhio plans to provide assistance for the project, which will be made public after a final agreement is executed.

“Gojo is a purpose-driven Ohio company doing everything it can to help communities and businesses during this pandemic,” said JobsOhio President and CEO J.P. Nauseef. “We and our partners at Team NEO welcome the continued success and growth of Gojo in Ohio, which serves as an example how our resilient businesses and workers will get the state’s economy growing once again.”

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.