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Small Business Support Story

Protecting Essential Workers

We salute all Michigan businesses that are answering the call to serve our family, friends and neighbors on the front lines during COVID-19. And we thank those who have pivoted to meet the needs of our communities.

We’re proud to provide the energy to keep Michigan going during this challenging time and deliver extra support to small businesses. Here is a look behind the scenes at seven businesses across the state that are stepping up to protect healthcare workers in their communities: Shaggy’s Copper Country Skis, 1-800-Stencil, Wolverine Worldwide Chaco, BISSELL, Tekna, Fabri-Kal and Schupan & Sons.

Skis to Shields

In late March, Shaggy’s Copper Country Skis transitioned its Boyne City factory from making custom skis to pumping out thousands of anti-fog face and eye shields — all in an effort to protect frontline workers in hospitals, clinics and labs.

shaggysAs local ski hills began closing in mid-March to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the family-owned and operated company reached out to the community.

Owner Jeff Thompson posted about their willingness and ability to help on the company’s Facebook page. A few days later, he was at McLaren Hospital in Petoskey with his pregnant wife, who gave birth to a daughter. The hospital had called Shaggy's the day before and was going to drop off samples, but since he was already at the hospital, a rep came to the room and dropped off some sample face and eye shields.

“They said, ‘if you can make the shields, we want them,’” Thompson said. “We want to be part of the solution. We don’t want to sit back and watch things happen.”

Initially, as many as 10 Shaggy’s employees helped produce the shields. The business then teamed with 1-800-Stencil, a business owned by Jeff’s brother, to add more hands to the production. As of early May, the teams had produced more than 150,000 shields shipped statewide.

Extra Protection

Wolverine Worldwide’s outdoor footwear and lifestyle brand, Chaco, quickly transitioned from making footwear to facemasks as the Rockford-based company retrofitted its ReChaco factory to produce critical protective equipment for healthcare workers.

chaco-bissellWhen Michigan issued a statewide shelter-in-place directive on March 23, 2020, Chaco teamed with BISSELL, a local floor care company, to donate vacuum bag material to repurpose as filters* in the masks. Each mask is donated with multiple filters — which fit into a dedicated pocket in the mask — providing increased protection for healthcare workers as they carry out their essential duties.

ReChaco features industrial sewing machines, houses an ample backstock of materials and has a production team with decades of professional sewing expertise. “We at Chaco are doers. It’s not in our team’s DNA to stand by when we have the opportunity and resources to take action,” said Lisa Kondrat, director of operations for the ReChaco Factory. “We want our skills and machinery to be useful in this crisis.”

Chaco is working with parent company, Wolverine Worldwide, and local organizations to source fabric and materials for production. The company has shared its patterns, sourcing leads and learnings as a resource for the outdoor industry and others looking to contribute during the pandemic. Meanwhile, BISSELL has enough vacuum bag material to produce 1.8 million filters. Companies shifting production to masks and in need of filtration material can contact BISSELL.

* BISSELL does not advise that consumers make their own filters from vacuum bags. BISSELL’s material has been researched and third-party tested for filtration and breathability efficiency.

Special Delivery

Mike Rozewicz and the Tekna team in Kalamazoo know firsthand how important first responders are to Michigan. The medical device manufacturer quickly partnered with other local companies to provide thousands of much-needed face shields for local healthcare workers.

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” said Mike Rozewicz, Vice President at Tekna. “We as a community have an obligation to pull together, use our collective creativity and deliver real solutions for those that are fighting this virus on our behalf. We can’t express enough gratitude to all of the healthcare professionals working so hard to care for us in a great time of need.”

Bronson Healthcare initially contacted Southwest Michigan First, a local economic development group focused on growing jobs, to put out a call for personal protection equipment (PPE). In less than a week, Tekna and others answered by collaborating to go from prototype to production using a concept design provided by the Global Center for Medical Innovation (GCMI) consortium.

Each organization played its part in the project. Fabri-Kal, a foodservice packaging company, formed and cut the plastic shields while Schupan & Sons, a metals and plastics company, machined the plastic to shape. Tekna collected and assembled all the components (foam, elastic and plastic shield) and then delivered them to local hospitals and essential businesses.