With a military background, Tekrider TekVest owner Steve Brand said he’s been absolutely fine with the logistics of converting from making high-end recreation and sports clothing to medical protective gear.

The Haliburton County company began making products earlier this week, including gowns, masks, booties and bouffants.

Brand said the turn-around time has been quick but the business has been in the cut and sew business for 24 years, making top of the line safety apparel, so it was “very easy for us to switch over to medical gear.”

Brand said he started making inquiries before the government started listing essential services. When Premier Doug Ford made the announcement, he said some red tape ensued. He said he spoke with Warden Liz Danielsen, who wrote a letter to the province asking Tekrider be declared an essential service.

Danielsen said sourcing materials such as protective masks was something that the County’s EMS department has been working on during this unprecedented emergency. She said that through the process, Tekrider was contacted about the manufacture and supply of masks for local paramedics. She said this extended to their ability to produce gowns and booties for hospital staff.

“Unfortunately, Tekrider was not identified as an essential business based on the criteria set down by the province as this is not their normal product. In order to facilitate Tekrider remaining open, retooling their equipment, sourcing material required and to allow their workers to be on site, they needed a letter of support from the County which we were glad to be able to offer,” the Warden said.

Danielsen said any local firm that can help in the production of badly-needed protective equipment is to be applauded for their efforts, and which could play a part in saving lives, in the County.

While employees remained at home for a short time, the company purchased several new machines. Ten staff are back now and started sewing April 6. Brand said they have established social distancing among other safety features in the newly-reconfigured plant. For example, staff wear protective clothing. Their temperatures are monitored. There are procedures in place so their homes are also safe. He said workers who volunteered to come back have been given a 15 per cent wage hike because there is some risk involved.

“Morale is really good. Everybody is quite happy to be at work,” he said.

Brand said they will get a better idea of production costs once they complete sampling this week. It’s been a win-win, with Tekrider able to keep people working, and contributing to coronavirus pandemic efforts.

Tekrider has been in touch with Haliburton Highlands Health Services as its first goal is to look after the needs of Haliburton County. They may also assist efforts in the City of Kawartha Lakes. While not finalized, Brand has also reached out to quilter’s groups in the County about offering them work to sew mask from home. People are encouraged to follow Tekrider on Facebook for more details.

“We can cut 2,500 masks a day using a high-tech computer but we can’t sew that many a day,” Brand said.

Brand is retired military so says something such as this comes naturally to him and is “low stress.” It’s another way of giving back and “my folks are gung-ho to do it. “

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