Boston based New Balance, the manufacturer of popular running sneakers and other athletic footwear, recently repurposed its factories to produce a general-use face mask.
With an urgent demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) that continues to intensify across the country, New Balance produced its first face mask prototype less than a week ago and donated some of these masks to the staff at the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC).
“By mid-April, our goal is to make up to 100,000 units weekly at our Lawrence, MA and Norridgewock, ME factories combined,” said New Balance Owner and Chairman Jim Davis in a statement. “We are simultaneously advancing our current face mask design and materials specifications to ideally meet FDA requirements and achieve a product that can be confidently used by frontline medical staff who require those criteria.”
EBNHC Vice President Steve Snyder said once he caught word that New Balance was producing masks he reached out to the company immediately and was sent thousands of masks.
“New Balance and in particular, the New Balance Foundation has been a strong supporter of the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center for several years,” said Snyder. “When I heard about them retooling their factory to make masks I contacted them right away and they gave us access to over a couple of thousand masks. We are really proud of the actions they are taking supporting health care providers during this crisis – they are a first class organization and true friends of EBNHC.”
New Balance is approaching distribution through a combination of direct medical facility coordination and communication at the Massachusetts and Maine state levels, where its factories are located, to help the company best understand where our current face mask design fits their supply and demand needs.
“This is not a commercial opportunity,” stressed Davis. “NB is pursuing break-even pricing and/or donations for the face mask. This initiative has kept many of our associates proudly engaged during this economic and public health crisis while our traditional retail customers are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Davis said New Balance is also quickly responding to calls for other PPE including gowns and foot coverings, among other items, with its Sports Lab production teams. This includes working toward prototypes and exploring collaborative opportunities that optimize U.S.-based 3D printing capabilities.
“We are proud to combine the industrial research and development expertise and innovative thinking of our associates with our domestic manufacturing resources to work to solve new and extraordinary product challenges, reflecting our brand’s purpose-driven culture and leveraging our skilled American workers in our New England factories,” he said.