Struggling US manufacturers switch production lines to face masks

Face masks

With about half of US states requiring that masks be worn in public and most large retailers and grocery stores mandating them in their stores, masks are not just helping keep coronavirus at bay but also providing a financial lifeline to many small businesses that might otherwise be looking into the abyss.

Companies are stitching them on repurposed manufacturing lines in New England and 3-D-printing them at workshops in California, reports the Washington Post.

Hundreds of Etsy entrepreneurs have stopped sewing bags and table linens and switched to full-time mask production.

For many, the work started as a way to keep some money coming in as the economy crashed and to help their communities.

Now, said the daily, as coronavirus infections surge across the nation, some mask makers see the potential for steady sales, at least for months to come.

For nearly a century, Steele Canvas has been churning out industrial goods from its workshops near Boston, lately housed in a brick factory in Chelsea.

The family-owned manufacturer built a booming business making canvas-and-steel storage carts that customers use to stash tools, construction materials and other wares.

As the economy started locking down in March, those orders dried up, pushing the company toward crisis and forcing it to consider furloughing its 70 employees. But then it found a way out — making masks.

“It has become a very significant part of our business,” said Ryan Huston, Steele’s head of sales and marketing. “We were able to keep our whole staff 100 per cent employed and even to hire some extra people.”

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