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In this TOGETHER

Council of Industry member businesses come together with each other and their affiliates to find unique ways to fulfill the region's pandemic needs.

 

Council of Industry

 

It's no secret that the Empire State was one of the hardest hit from the coronavirus pandemic. But, some manufacturers and organizations in the state weren't going to let the pandemic close their doors, nor were they going to remain complacent at a time when the need for supplies and services was so critical.

The Council of Industry (COI), a privately funded non-profit Hudson Valley (New York) manufacturer's association, who has been supporting the success of its member firms and their employees since 1910, recognized early on that the swiftness of the pandemic's impact to the state required a swift and purposeful response. As an organization that typically provides its members with resources to help their businesses succeed—such as workforce development, training and operational services—COI leadership knew that they would have to quickly shift their support services to pandemic-appropriate guidance.

"Most of us here [at COI] have worked through 9/11, the financial meltdown and the recession, and we've had to adapt our services and member support to reflect other difficult circumstances," said Harold King, Council of Industry President. "We knew we needed to quickly react to what members would need the most in light of this pandemic."

 

I am very proud of all of our members, many of whom are essential and working hard and safely to make people’s lives a little more safe and secure. The commitment these companies have shown to their suppliers and customers is noteworthy. The commitment they have shown to their employees is impressive and heartwarming.

 

- Harold King, COI President

 

COI immediately began an information release campaign that included a filtered flow of details, resources and contacts that could assist members in all aspects of their business operations during the pandemic, along with what member business could do for the state. According to King, COI engaged its associate members to provide expertise to member organizations via podcasts and webinars on pertinent topics, such as accessing federal loans and debt relief programs, the paycheck protection program, return to work and workplace health and safety preparedness, guidelines for essential businesses and employment law guidance.

Another impactful connection that COI made was to marry what the state needed with what member organizations could produce or help coordinate—including how member businesses could arrange for production and distribution of much needed supplies, who could provide parts to others looking to produce finished products and who could provide blueprints for various medical-grade devices and PPE. From this effort came the following inspirational stories and acts of kindness from COI member organizations and businesses.

 

 

 

Members Helping Members: Orange Packaging Stays Afloat by Collaborating With Another Member Organization in Need

At the start of the pandemic, Newburgh, New York-based Orange Packaging—an engineering and manufacturing facility for point-of-purchase displays—saw their business shrink to nothing when retail stores were ordered to close and no longer needed display orders. On the brink of layoffs and possibly closure, Vice President, Michael Esposito, saw the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) and knew that the company his grandfather started had the machinery to produce plastic parts to make face shields.

Esposito's idea was able to gain traction after his brother, Anthony, made a face shield prototype that he posted on social media. Soon after that, they connected to a non-profit organization, ACCESS: Supports for Living, that was in need of PPE for its employees. After a meeting and some recommended changes to the design, ACCESS placed an initial order of 5,000. This was the springboard for a new vision at Orange Packaging.

Esposito credits ACCESS: Supports for Living—a nonprofit organization that offers disability and mental health services in the Hudson Valley—for being able to keep Orange Packaging, a COI member, afloat by being the first to engage them to produce plastic face shields for their employees. By the end of April, Orange Packaging had made more than 100,000 shields for the Hudson Valley community and had begun producing a second version of the face shield for hospitals, along with some medical devices for local ICUs. The company intends on adding a permanent line of healthcare PPE and devices to its line of business and has been able to retain its 74 employees because of the new production venture.

Orange Packaging

 

Orange Packaging
 

 

 

ACCESS: Supports for Living Organizes and Distributes Vital PPE Across the Region While Expanding Its Own Mental Health Services

In an area, such as the Hudson Valley, that was hit hard and fast by the pandemic, it was imperative for essential businesses and services to quickly put safety measures in place to continue to safely conduct operations. But, when your organization is providing services and mental health care that is both essential and very hands-on, protecting your employees and your clients/patients becomes your top priority—and a huge endeavor at that.

Access: Supports for Living, a non-profit organization in Middletown, New York, that helps people—particularly those with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD) and mental health challenges—live the healthiest and fullest lives possible, sprung into motion at the outset of the pandemic. Their goal was to help both their organization and others in the region safeguard essential workers. Securing PPE had been a documented challenge for everyone, and with hundreds of direct support professionals on the front lines working in the community, the organization had to get creative.

Through a social media connection, Access was able to connect to and work with local manufacturer, Orange Packaging, to procure an initial order of 5,000 plastic facemasks. They continued to connect with other local companies producing PPE, while adding to that supply with sourcing from Florida, Tennessee and Vermont.

"It started with us protecting and meeting the needs of our 1,500 direct support professionals and staff, who are serving the most vulnerable I/DD populations, primarily in residential settings," said Chris Masters, Executive Director and SVP of Business Development at Access. "As similar Hudson Valley I/DD agencies started to struggle to protect their teams and clients, we offered assistance and found the demand very high for PPE and hand sanitizer," he said, adding that they procured and distributed thousands of face shields, cotton masks, gloves, KN95 masks and more in the Hudson Valley.

Access: Supports for Living, a COI member, has two main functions with multiple services within each. The social services side of the organization improves the lives of individuals with mental and developmental disabilities. It operates mental health urgent care facilities that serve anyone looking for mental health services, including substance use disorders. The business solutions side of the organization operates a manufacturing facility that assembles proprietary foam ear plugs for the military and hearing and safety protection products for 3M, while also providing professional services, such as janitorial and food services. This area of the business employs between 350-400 individuals with I/DD and the revenue it generates goes back into the agency to provide more community-based services. Both sides of the organization were responsible for several key contributions that support its clients and the community during the pandemic.

The procurement, storage and distribution of PPE was handled by the business solutions area of the organization, which has warehousing and distribution capabilities. Being a centralized repository for PPE for the region led the Hudson Valley Economic Development Corporation (HVEDC) to ask Access to partner with some local distilleries to begin distributing hand sanitizer.

"It was all about meeting the urgent needs of our community, so Access stepped up," said Masters. And, because the demand will continue to be high for hand and surface sanitizers, Masters said that they are actively working on plans to increase their role in the production process for sanitizer. They have already expanded their line of products, which included a liquid formula, to gel-based products that will be necessary for businesses as the state reopens.

Although the umbrella of services Access provides was deemed essential, once the pandemic hit, there were some business services that were suspended because clients, such as local universities who contracted for food service, no longer had students on campus. The new distribution and logistics services specific to PPE and hand sanitizer continue to generate the revenue necessary to support the increasing mental health and social services. In fact, the organization has made a host of new friends and customers as a result of the pandemic.

"By taking a leadership role in PPE and innovating—while still delivering fully-staffed mental health services and giving back to so many—we are well positioned for future growth," Masters said. "We showed the ability to use our manufacturing experience to pivot quickly and now we have several local manufacturers who want to partner when we get through this, which we anticipate will lead to new customers and new business opportunities," he added.

On the social services side of the organization, where close interactions are often the key to advancing mental health treatments, the pandemic brought about some challenges that were quickly met with creative and valuable solutions.

To ensure that everyone in the community had safe and immediate access to quality care, Access launched a 24/7 Virtual Mental Health and Substance Use Urgent Care program. This program is part of Access's Mental Health and Substance Use Urgent Care, which opened May 1, 2019, and has been used by roughly 3,000 people across the Hudson Valley in less than a year. The program has always aimed to provide immediate, comprehensive mental health care under one roof seven days a week. With the new virtual program, adults and children struggling with anxiety, depression, or any other mental health or substance use concerns, will have access to therapists 24/7 by phone and through telemedicine—regardless of their ability to pay.

"We had to quickly pivot to deal with the increased anxiety and depression in our region and we were able to set up virtual access to our already-existing urgent care services," Masters said. The additional round-the-clock access will help ensure that patients who require mental health support can receive it immediately and avoid emergency rooms, which have to focus their resources on COVID care, he added.

Access also launched a webinar series in April, as part of their care coordination services for persons with I/DD, to support families who are navigating the challenges of the pandemic with special needs family members.

What Masters is most proud of through this pandemic experience is the organization's courageous commitment to its clients, who are some of the most vulnerable folks in community, and its commitment to the Hudson Valley. "We deepened relationships significantly with the private sector, government and non-profits and continued to demonstrate that we are a true and reliable partner of the region."

Learn more about Access: Supports for Living's ACE of Hearts campaign, where a small contribution can go a long way to thank essential workers and continue to support #AccessforAll.

ACCESS logo

 

 

 

ACCESS Employees

 

 

 

ACCESS Urgent Care

 

 

Custom Handbag Manufacturer, Unshattered, Keeps Recovering Women Employed by Designing and Producing Custom Masks

On March 20, when Governor Cuomo ordered non-essential businesses to close, there was an exception for organizations serving populations who were economically at risk. It was unclear however if Unshattered, in Hopewell Junction, New York, qualified under this exemption, since they technically manufacture non-essential handbags. Faced with the possibility of closing their doors and laying off employees, the bulk of which are women in recovery from addiction, the leadership team used its creativity to customize a new go-forward plan.

In less than 24 hours from the Governor's press conference, the Unshattered team drafted a mask, consulted with a physician from a local healthcare center and began producing a safe and effective product. By the following day, Unshattered was in full production mode and back to being an essential manufacturer.

Unshattered works with women in residential recovery programs to help them develop skills, find their strengths and prepare for the future by gaining economic independence and a sense of purpose to remain sober. The women are trained to work in all areas of the custom handbag design, manufacturing, sales and distribution process and are empowered to set and attain productivity goals and become entrepreneurs in their own areas of expertise. Women that complete the training and apprenticeship are offered full-time employment with competitive wages and benefits, along with ongoing personal development training.

The handbags and other accessories produced by Unshattered come from repurposed materials—some of which have noteworthy historic value, such as materials from Broadway sets, famous New York banners and upscale vehicle interiors. The organization also works with individuals who wish to have a custom design created from something personal, like a wedding dress, military uniform or heirloom.

Founder and CEO, Kelly Lyndgaard, stressed the importance of keeping Unshattered open and thriving during the pandemic. "Because substance addiction is often the 'solution' for a larger problem, if you give purpose, meaning and stability to a person's life, you take away the need to turn to a substance as the solution," she said, adding that by giving recovering women purpose, meaning and stability to their lives, they become the most resilient, creative and hard-working employees.

While Unshattered is making cloth masks and PPE accessories for profit, they are donating thousands from their output—more than 7,000 to date—to local hospitals and caregivers, and they continue to receive orders by the thousands. According to Lyndgaard, they are booked out about three weeks and are fulfilling more than 3,000 orders already in their system.

As if the contributions of the organization aren't themselves enough, Unshattered realized that the demand was well beyond what they could produce, so they posted the pattern on their website and started a community collection program. They set up a touch-free drop box outside of their facility to accept mask donations that they can then distribute through their own system of orders.

Lyndgaard is proud of her team, which was founded on innovation and problem solving. "This team turned on a dime. They rebuilt our manufacturing process, drafted and designed a quality product, and were ready to go in 24 hours. They changed their roles internally and stepped up to handle all of it."

Learn more about Unshattered's cloth mask production and how you can help.

UNSHATTERED logo

 

 

 

UNSHATTERED masks

 

 

 

UNSHATTERED employees

 

 

Arnoff Storage and Moving Provides Cool Solution for Local Non-profit Serving Poughkeepsie Community

When the shutdown began in March, Dutchess Outreach, a Poughkeepsie-based non-profit that provides a variety of services for those in need, became overwhelmed with requests for help. Dutchess Outreach runs a food pantry as well as the Lunch Box, which provides food for those that are nutritionally disadvantaged. The pantry provides emergency food supplies designed to feed people for up to five days.

The pandemic shutdown resulted in limited access to the building where the pantry is located so Dutchess Outreach had to relocate their pantry to the basement floor of the building to allow food to be easily distributed to people waiting outside. In addition to moving the pantry, the non-profit required additional space to store refrigerated items due to increased demand for food.

Mike Arnoff, President of Arnoff Moving and Storage and COI member, went to work on finding resources. Though refrigerated trailers are in high demand right now, within 24 hours of the request, Arnoff was able to locate a 53-foot refrigerated trailer and deliver it to the parking lot where Dutchess Outreach operates.

According to the non-profit, the teamwork of Arnoff, along with the Poughkeepsie mayor's office and department of public works, made it possible for Dutchess Outreach to continue to feed those in need in their community.

ARNOFF

 

 

Engineering School Puts Its Technology and Relationships to Work During University Closure

When the call to produce more PPE went out, The Hudson Valley Additive Manufacturing Center (HVAMC) at SUNY New Paltz saw an opportunity to contribute in a meaningful way while students were away. Dan Freedman, Dean of the School of Science and Engineering at SUNY New Paltz, received an initial request from the Hudson Valley Economic Development Corporation (HVEDC) about the dire need for PPE and "was there anything the school could do." In response, HVAMC's Cat Wilson and Aaron Nelson found the plans for 3D printing face shields and then took it upon themselves to redesign the plans to produce a more functional and comfortable version of the shield.

Production began with the main visor and the band in the back being printed at HVAMC but the next hurdle was sourcing the materials for the elastic and shield portions locally. With material stores sold out of elastic, the HVAMC team decided to use 3.5" rubber bands as a substitute. To solve for the shields, they came up with the idea of using transparencies for overhead projectors, which worked out very well.

HVAMC has about 17 desktop printers running and three bigger Stratasys printers producing 200 components a day. The NOVO Foundation and COI member, Central Hudson, have both given generous donations to keep this initiative going. This has allowed PPE to be donated to the first responders and hospitals in need locally.

Because the need for face shields continues in high numbers—with estimates that New York City could need 15 million in the next few months—HVAMC continues to work on securing materials and supply chain logistics with help from COI member, IBM Centers for Systems Innovation, in Poughkeepsie. IBM has also been very helpful in cutting plastic for face shields, in addition to 3D printing parts and providing design and supply chain knowledge that has been vital to ramping up production of the shields as quickly as possible. HVAMC is also working with USHECO, an injection molding company and COI member, to make more parts faster, along with COI members Schatz Bearing Corp, and Allendale Machinery Systems.

Since the project's inception, HVAMC has found support and help from almost 30 different local high schools, colleges and companies who are contributing by printing parts on 3D printers or providing materials. "Everyone's help is tremendously appreciated," said Freedman. "The whole project speaks to the idea of the community pitching in during difficult times. This pandemic is like nothing most of us have ever seen, and 3D printing provides a unique way of handling the crisis."

If your organization has 3D printers or can source any of the materials that are needed to create face shields, find out more about how you can help.

Hudson Valley logo

 

 

 

Hudson Valley shield

 

 

 

Hudson Valley employee

 

 

Small, Nimble Plastics Manufacturer Shields Its Employees From Reduced Hours While Fulfilling the Regional Demand for Plastic PPE

In early March, as the effects of the pandemic first began their ripple through society and the economy, USHECO Inc., a small manufacturer of custom plastic parts in Kingston, New York, saw a large dip in orders and, like many, the company was cutting back employee hours.

At this same time, designs for plastic face shields were emerging and the company was able to have a deeper look into how they might be able to help. According to Strategy & Communication Coordinator Alethea Shuman, the company was able to "pivot and find an opportunity to stay open and be helpful" by manufacturing a reusable face shield design that requires a heavier material that most companies do not have the equipment to bend. In fact, they rapidly changed their production focus to this important piece of PPE, in part with a little help from an unsuspecting source, and some nearby COI members.

According to Shuman, the company has teamed up with one of its direct competitors, Wepco Plastics, in Middlefield, Connecticut, to produce the masks. But, because the biggest limitations to keeping up with demand are securing enough material and the availability of machinery, USHECO is working with COI members Zumtobel, on materials sourcing, and Ertel Alsop, who has offered their die cutters if needed. Zumtobel has also offered to set up a clean cell to allow USHECO to manufacture face shields there, which will, according to Shuman, allow production of another 20,000 each week. Currently USHECO has 500,000 orders to fill and the potential for another 800,000 and they're "willing to work with anybody that is able to step up to the plate," Shuman said.

USHECO is also producing the headband component for masks being assembled elsewhere. Working with the HVAMC at SUNY New Paltz and M-Tech Design, who produced a mold for the headband in four days (which normally takes two months or more), USHECO has now produced more than 5,000 headbands for masks going to Dutchess and Ulster counties. They're also working on a new mask design that is disposable and uses a thinner material.

Like other businesses that have had to rethink the workplace to protect employees and customers, USHECO, a COI member, is able to keep its employees safe by scheduling only 10 people on the production floor at a time in its 40,000 square foot facility. They're also cleaning surfaces every day with bleach and providing the fruits of their labor—plastic face shields—to their own employees.

USHECO logo

 

 

 

USHECO employee

 

 

Connecting NYC Students With Remote Learning Capabilities

School was out early this year for students across the country, who quickly had to adapt to at-home, remote learning to finish out the school year—if they had the tools to do so. COI member, IBM Centers for Systems Innovation, in Poughkeepsie, is helping to guarantee that for students in the New York City public school system.

IBM partnered with the City of New York and the Department of Education to provide students with the technology they need to stay connected and learning during the pandemic. So far IBM has deployed more than 100,000 internet-ready tablets that are loaded with all of the software that students will need to continue their academic year. They are on track to deliver an additional 200,000 in the coming weeks.

The provisioning work is being done by a very dedicated team of employees from their Poughkeepsie site, while following social distancing and health guidelines. They designed a manufacturing facility and scaled it to capacity in order to fulfill this incredible opportunity. The team is producing more than 5,000 completed tablets a day.

"We have all been forced to adapt to new ways of working, learning, and interacting during this pandemic. This is especially true for our young people who have been displaced from their schools and daily routines. We view it as our responsibility to leverage the very best of our technology to lessen this burden—and to give students the tools they need to succeed," the company said in a statement to COI.

The IBM Centers for Systems Innovation also collaborated with and supported HVAMC at SUNY New Paltz in their face shield production undertaking by cutting the plastic for the shields, printing 3D parts and providing design and supply chain knowledge that was vital to ramping up production of the shields as quickly as possible.

IBM employees

 

 

 

IBM warehouse

 


 

 

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inspire us with your own story

Inspire Us with Your Story

Have a story about generosity, innovation or non-traditional business modifications from your employees, your business or your partners? Let us know and we’ll collaborate to feature your positivity and inspiration.

 

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