How Four Businesses Are Serving North Central Massachusetts
While non-essential business have been forced to shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies in North Central Massachusetts are stepping up with innovative and philanthropic solutions to support the community, health care institutions and those in need, while also taking measures to protect their employees.
From making hand sanitizer, to building temporary nurses’ stations, to setting up a drive-through window for food pickup, or donating storage containers and masks, local businesses are doing whatever it takes.
“We are proud and privileged to play a small role in helping our communities fight this fight,’’ said David Reilly, president of United Solutions in Leominster. “We are in regular contact with many state and local organizations, and our team here will continue to seek out ways to support our communities and the country.’’
United Solutions, a leading manufacturer of plastic totes, trash cans and storage organization solutions, donated Rubbermaid Roughneck Totes and Rubbermaid Action Packers to the Fitchburg Fire Department, Leominster Fire Department, Leominster Emergency Responders, Hopkinton Fire Department, and donated PPE masks to UMass Medical Center.
Reilly said their team is focused on keeping employees safe and healthy while working to meet the demand for products needed by families, essential businesses, first responders, healthcare professionals and military personnel on the front lines of this critical effort.
“At the same time, where we can help, whether it’s by getting our Rubbermaid storage or United Solutions sanitation and other products quickly to local organizations or donating excess PPE or PPE we can procure through our supply chains to organizations, we will do our best,’’ Reilly said.
Leominster-based AIS, a leading manufacturer of commercial office furniture and seating, has also taken several measures to support the community.
The company acquired and donated 4,000 KN95 mask to first responders in Leominster and Fitchburg, said Bruce Platzman, president and chief operating officer. He said the company is now also manufacturing and donating two different types of masks – a cloth mask made of three layers of fabric including a antimicrobial layer to help kill and repel germs and one less complex.
Platzman said he has converted an area of the company typically used to make seating just for masks. Production takes place 16 hours a day.
“If I had a million mask to donate, I could find people to take them,’’ he said.
In addition to the masks, AIS has adapted its manufacturing to provide equipment most needed by essential industries like hospitals.
Platzman said about 95 percent of its orders are going to organizations that need to stay open – an emergency nurses station for Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and projects for the FBI and the Pentagon, to name a few.
“If we get an order from a triage center in Brooklyn, which we did, and don’t deliver the chairs and desks they need, that triage center doesn’t open up,’’ Platzman said. “It’s as simple as that.’’
AIS has also taken many steps to protect its 700 workers.
The company is:
- Using 10 cleaners instead of the usual two,
- Requiring employees to take breaks and lunch outside the building.
- Taking temperatures of employees three times a day.
- Mandating the use of masks.
- Circulating air through its ventilation system more often.
“If everyone keeps workers safe and finds a way to keep the workforce moving, we’ll all get through this sooner rather than later,’’ he said.
Another local company that has adapted its manufacturing to help meet the needs of the community is Garden Remedies.
Garden Remedies, which operates three marijuana dispensaries in Massachusetts, has its cultivation center in Fitchburg.
Seeing an immediate need to keep its facilities clean during the pandemic, the cultivation center started producing its own sanitizer, said Dr. Karen Munkacy, the founder and president.
A team member of its topical department immediately switched gears into measuring and sewing face masks for dispensary staff members.
As the need for sanitizer increased, Garden Remedies joined with the Commonwealth Dispensary Association’s program to make 5 gallon jugs of sanitizers sold at cost for hospitals and first responders in the state.
The company has produced 200+ gallons of sanitizer and expects to continue for several more weeks.
“The Fitchburg team has done a great job of responding to the important needs of the community,’’ she said.
Munkacy said the pandemic has had a major impact on how they do business and on their overall business results.
“Despite all the challenges that the pandemic has brought on, the Garden Remedies team has worked extremely hard in our mission to help patients with safe and legal cannabis products and also to support the community by making sanitizing fluid for Massachusetts hospitals and for first responders in communities in which we operate,’’ she said.
Garden Remedies and places like Wachusett Brewing Company in Westminster continue to serve the public so they have taken additional steps to ensure the safety of their customers.
The timing of the pandemic could not have been worse, said Wachusett Brewing Company President Christian McMahan.
This is typically its peak production period as it ramps up for the summer. Additionally, they had recently opened a new Brew Yard in Worcester and were about to open one in Cambridge.
McMahan said they have had three guiding principles during this time: ensuring employment however possible, providing the safest possible environment for employees and supporting the community.
“When the Brew Yards all closed, we were the first brewery in MA to set-up a local delivery service and offer food and beverages for those who were not comfortable leaving their homes,’’ McMahan said. “We have expanded that to now having a drive-thru/curbside delivery option at our Westminster location, which is growing by the day. We also added an online ordering service to make it even easier for our customers to tell us what they would like and when they would like it.’’
He said the result as exceeded their expectations.
“I think people are looking to mix things up in their routine and if we can play a role in providing them some level of comfort and service through these crazy times, then certainly will continue to do whatever we can to make a difference,’’ McMahan said. “Our staff has been incredible in adapting to something completely new and different. There is no roadmap for what we are all dealing with. We just wake-up each and every day and do the best we can with what we have.’’
Since the writing of this article, Garden Remedies has also contributed $5,000 to the Stand United Covid-19 Relief Fund of North Central Massachusetts and their friends at the Fireman Family Foundation matched their contribution for a total of $10,000 donated to the worthy cause.