The power in Fort Smith manufacturing was highlighted Wednesday (April 1) when Pradco Outdoor Brands of Fort Smith and Glatfelter’s Fort Smith plant stepped up to help those on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic in Fort Smith.
Tim Allen, president and CEO of the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce, said a couple of weeks ago when Arkansas began to feel the effects of the COVID-19 virus, he went to area business leaders to see what needs Fort Smith had. Then he went to area manufacturers to see what they could do.
“We identified the need, then went out to get help. They (Fort Smith manufacturers) stepped up,” Allen said. “This is displaying the power of Fort Smith manufacturers.”
Allen said healthcare workers with Mercy-Fort Smith and Baptist Health-Fort Smith needed face shields. He connected those professionals with Bruce Stanton, vice president and general manager of the fishing division at Pradco, and they furnished Stanton with the specifications for the head gear and the shield that connects to it.
“Pradco made hundreds of the face shields,” Allen said.
Pradco designed the frame of that attaches to the shields and the Fort Smith operation has the ability to produce one mask frame every minute. Though the materials to make the shields are inexpensive, Pradco has picked up the cost of producing them, Allen said.
FROM OBSOLETE TO USEFUL
Stanton said they were able to get the design approved by Baptist Health earlier in the week and started making them out of obsolete material they had at the facility.
“It’s stuff we no longer need. It’s good that we can use this stuff that was just collecting dust to do something good,” he said.
Pradco is hoping to make enough of the masks to be able to provide 2,000 a week to be split by the two hospitals. They will “hold on to a few” for area health clinics who are seeing COVID-19 patients and need them.
“The good thing is they can be adjusted to fit just about any size head and the shields clip on. That way they can be cleaned between uses or thrown away. The doctors said they were having a hard time getting these. Hopefully, we can make enough to alleviate that problem, at least in Fort Smith,” Stanton said.
On Wednesday (April 1), dozens of cases of the shields were delivered to both Fort Smith hospitals along with thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer, the company known for making fishing lures, also produced. Allen said products were also delivered to some Fort Smith nursing homes Wednesday, including Methodist Village and Heart of Hospice, and more will be delivered to other nursing homes in the coming days.
“As long as there is this need, we will keep doing this,” Stanton said. “It feels good to be able to help our neighbors and the medical community. We’re excited to do this.”
Pradco has made 7,500 bottles of hand sanitizer with a 75% isopropyl alcohol this week. They donated 1,000 bottles to each hospital Wednesday and more to local nursing homes. They will be donating more to other nursing homes and doctor’s offices and clinics before the end of the week, Stanton said. He said they are setting up to make another similar amount next week. And they have amped of operations in order to continue making the face shields as long as they are needed. They have the potential to create and deliver thousands of masks.
“This is all at their cost. You’re looking at engineering (the mask frames), printing them on 3-D printers, employees working 12-hour shifts to produce them, and making the hand sanitizer. They have put many thousands of dollars into helping fill this need,” Allen said. “And they are making more and more and more.”
And they aren’t the only ones. Glatfelter in Fort Smith worked with Rockline Industries to bring a pallet of sanitizing wipes to Fort Smith healthcare providers, Allen said.
“Gladfelter makes baby wipes, which are different from sanitary (sanitizing) wipes that the hospitals need. But they have a close relationship with Rockline Industries. Rockline sent them a big pallet of cases of sanitary wipes to distribute to hospitals and healthcare providers,” Allen said.
Pernod Ricard announced earlier in March that its Fort Smith plant is one of four company plants producing and donating hand sanitizer to help in the national fight against the COVID-19 virus. In addition to Fort Smith, the hand sanitizer will be produced Smooth Ambler Spirits in Lewisburg, W.V., Rabbit Hole Distillery in Louisville, Ky., and TX Whiskey Distillery in Ft. Worth, Texas.