‘Team Effort': Local Companies Like L.L. Bean, New Balance to Make Face Masks

New Balance has set a goal of 100,000 masks per week by mid-April

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Some of your favorite shoe brands are on the front lines fighting coronavirus. 

Manufacturers like New Balance and L.L. Bean say they’ve adapted production lines to make masks for health care workers and everyday people. 

New Balance has set a goal of 100,000 masks per week by mid-April, with factories in Norridgewock, Maine, and Lawrence, Massachusetts, helping make that happen. 

“The mask prototype was developed with consultation from the State of Massachusetts as well as MIT and several medical institutions,” said Dave Wheeler, New Balance’s Executive Vice President of Global Supply Chain. 

According to Wheeler, hospitals including Massachusetts General, Brigham and Women’s, and Maine Medical Center have all given input. 

The resulting mask was developed in a matter of days and in a release, New Balance said the masks won’t be “a commercial opportunity” and the company is “pursuing break-even pricing and/or donations for the face mask.” 

Meanwhile, in Lewiston and Auburn, Maine, two companies on either side of the Androscoggin River are teaming up to produce cloth mask kits that right now are for the public only. 

With some guidance from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Fabric Warehouse in Auburn is producing the kits and retailing them online, allowing some employees to stay on the job while fulfilling a public need. 

“This must be the feel everybody had during World War II,” said Dave Allen, owner of Allen Manufacturing. “Everybody pitched in, everybody did what they had to do, it wasn’t about profit.” 

There is a similar sense nearby at a facility that normally makes L.L. Bean’s iconic Bean Boot. 

A number of stitchers there are making masks out of dog bed liner with an eventual goal of 500 per shift if possible. 

“We got a call from MaineHealth that said, ‘we need help on PPE for our healthcare providers,'” said Marie McCarthy, L.L. Bean’s Chief Operations and People Officer. 

The role local manufacturers are playing fighting coronavirus is encouraging for Maine’s public health officials, as well. 

“This is a team effort,” said Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah on Monday. 

In terms of PPE distributed by the Maine CDC, Shah says the state will use some from local manufacturers but other PPE will come from government stockpiles and manufacturers elsewhere. 

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