Created: July 08, 2020 08:47 PM
WATERLOO, N.Y. (WHEC) — At Finger Lakes Textiles, they know all about filling big orders. Makers of wool and fleece hats for the US military, they ship more than a million hats a year. So when the coronavirus hit, they started manufacturing face masks.
"We felt like there would be an opportunity for us to do that since we do a lot of sewing anyway, and it would just be a natural extension from what we currently do," said Finger Lakes Textiles CEO Allen Connely.
We first told you last winter about this company in Waterloo, which fosters inclusion by providing jobs to people with disabilities, with 100% of its profits going to fund residential programs and mental health services to people with disabilities.
Because of their government contract making hats, Finger Lakes Textiles was able to remain open during the pandemic. So they shifted their focus and developed a high-grade non-woven, three-layered, polyester mask.
"We had to modify some of our equipment," Connely said. "We were fortunate to have a grant from Fuzehub to help us buy additional equipment and it was a learning process for sure."
Manufacturing ramped up quickly after they were asked to make masks for the New York State Department of Corrections.
"We've produced 45,000 masks for them and it's gone quite well and we're just about completing that order," Connely said.
Connely says they've also been contracted to make masks for other states' prisons. They've done all this while continuing to fill orders for hats. Due to the new demand, they were able to add staff—and now have 90 to 100 people working in the plant.
Their own employees, are all socially distanced, have their temperatures taken each day, and wear their masks while working. Connely says they've had no infections in any of their programs or facilities.
"We're proud about the process and protocols we've put in place and hopefully we will continue in that direction," he added.
Connely says they are now producing logoed masks that are available under their consumer-brand division, called Arctic Gear, and he anticipates they will be making masks for the foreseeable future.
"Because I think there's going to be a need, and so we anticipate doing this all the way through 2021."
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