Ohio Manufacturers to Produce Millions of Masks

COLUMBUS, Ohio — In an effort to bolster the state’s supply of facial coverings during the coronavirus pandemic, two Ohio companies are collaborating to produce millions of high-quality, cotton face masks.

Buckeye Mask Co. of Cleveland and Stitches USA of Walnut Creek are collaborating with the Ohio Manufacturing Alliance to Fight COVID-19 to produce the masks. The alliance assisted in identifying a way to leverage automation to mass produce the masks.

It also invested, along with JobsOhio, in newly designed automation equipment, which increases the state’s output to 100,000 masks daily from 150,000 hand-sewn masks weekly, according to a press release.

“Throughout the pandemic, Ohio manufacturers have shown their ability and willingness to pivot to retool and repurpose their operations to help meet the immediate need for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other products needed in the fight against COVID-19,” said Eric Burkland, president of the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association, in the release. “The innovation and responsiveness of our manufacturers and their supply chains will be critical to the current and long-term recovery of our state.”

The Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network, or Magnet, connected the two companies with suppliers and provided engineering support to design the equipment, increase efficiency and reduce costs, according to the release.

“This exemplary reshoring project, which involves companies that normally would be competitors now working together with the State of Ohio, highlights the potential for Ohio manufacturers to pull together quickly in private-public partnerships to make a life-saving difference in battling COVID-19 and make products locally that are just as cost-effective as foreign-produced masks,” said Ethan Karp, president and CEO of Magnet. “This is Ohio at its best. This shows how technology and our existing manufacturing base will continue to grow and recapture revenue that is currently in countries like China. It takes collaboration, entrepreneurship, and sometimes a leap of faith, but we can do this and so much more.”

The companies received funding through the Ohio Development Services Agency’s Ohio Retooling and Repurposing Grant program. JobsOhio provided Stitches USA with a $1.2 million loan and Buckeye Mask with a $1.8 million loan to ensure they were the first U.S. companies to obtain advanced machinery to mass produce cotton masks, according to the release. Stitches USA and Buckeye Mask operate six and nine machines, respectively.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.