An Osceola company has recently shifted its production line to start producing protective facemasks for government contracts, as well as private sales.
Core Products International was founded in 1988 by Phil Mattison and specializes in making health products like spinal support pillows, ankle and back braces and massage tools and equipment.
The business has three locations, but its main office is located in Osceola.
Shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic began Core Products was contacted by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), which subcontracts to businesses across the country to produce products for the U.S. Government. Core Products had just recently become eligible to do work for the GSA.
“That was exciting for us because that process took well over a year,” Mattison said. “And then all of a sudden we start getting calls from GSA buyers.”
Mattison initially declined the offer to start producing masks for fear the company couldn’t compete with already established vendors, but eventually decided to take them up on their offer.
The company quickly designed a very straight forward, cloth mask and rushed into production. They began making masks on April 16 and by a week later they were producing 7,000 masks a day.
“We had to adjust all kinds of production,” Mattison said. “We pulled machines off other functions and pulled some machines that weren’t currently in use.”
Although the product is simple, reallocating machinery was a difficult process. Core Products uses high speed, commercial grade machines that are vastly more complicated than grandma’s Singer.
“It’s like the difference between driving a Volkswagen and a tractor trailer,” he said. “They’ll both get you down the road but they’re dramatically different tools.”
Much of Core Products’ office staff had been working from home since the pandemic began, but once they began making masks, those employees were called back to work to help sew.
“Some of them had been sewers when they were hired and some had never sewed at all,” Mattison said.
Even with some office staffers repurposed to sew, Mattison couldn’t keep up with demand, and is now looking to hire additional staff members.
As his staff goes back to work and brings on new workers, Mattison is implementing safety procedures to ensure his staff remains protected during the pandemic.
“Anybody new who comes into the building is having their temperature taken and we’re not allowing any guests,” he said. “(New employees) Will also be required to wear a mask for the first 14 days they’re in the building.”
Mattison is also trying to maintain social distancing as best he can, but on a production line that can sometimes be difficult.
“We’re doing some creative things,” he said. “You’ve probably been to the gas station or grocery store and saw plexiglass being put up. We’re playing some of those same games. It’s a hassle, but you can work around anything if you need to.”
Although the GSA doesn’t tell Mattison exactly where his masks are being used, he does know that the first batches of masks were shipped to New York, the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States where, as of May 1, over 13,000 people have died of COVID-19.
GSA orders continue to roll in to Core Products, as do orders from private companies looking to keep their employees safe. Mattison is happy for the business, and is also happy to be taking an active role in fighting the pandemic.
“We’re excited to be playing a significant part in the whole process,” he said.