For a little while at least, a candle-manufacturing company in New Albany is trying something new.
Alene Candles, 8860 Smith's Mill Road in the New Albany International Business Park, suspended its candle-manufacturing operations in mid-March because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, said plant manager Darrell Finck.
But manufacturing at the facility has been going strong once again, as staff members work hard to produce plastic face shields instead of candles.
Finck said the company plans to make 40,000 face shields for health-care workers to use with masks they wear. He said he is proud of employees, who are voluntarily stepping up.
"It's definitely inspiring," he said.
Alene Candles has not been alone in its efforts.
Other companies in the New Albany International Business Park have been stepping up to provide supplies for those on the front lines of the pandemic. They include Bocchi Laboratories' pivot to manufacturing hand sanitizer and Exhibitpro's collaboration with a Phoenix, Arizona, engineering firm to produce face shields.
Alene's production of face shields began April 9, Finck said.
After the company stopped its candle production, leaders soon began discussing how the company could help during the pandemic, he said. They settled on the design and manufacturing of face shields.
Using a design from Johns Hopkins University, engineering teams worked on a way for the facility to produce them, Finck said.
The plastic shield extends from the forehead to below the chin, and a strip of material provides padding for the wearer's forehead, he said. The shield is secured with an elastic band around the head and is designed to fit over a mask.
The company's 250 employees still are on payroll, Finck said, and nearly 20 employees are voluntarily working to produce the shields.
As of April 16, Alene had produced 10,000 shields, Finck said. A variety of organizations and businesses are using them, including local fire departments, ambulance services, dental and surgical practices and first responders, he said.
Exhibitpro at 8900 Smith's Mill Road N. also has been making face shields.
The company is an experiential marketing firm that specializes in designing and fabricating trade-show exhibits, events and branded environments, said Blake Miller, director of sales.
But the firm went in another direction to provide 200 face shields for the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix.
The initiative originated from conversations CEO Lori Miller had with her daughter, Shae Saint-Amor, a Mayo Clinic employee, about the lack of personal-protective equipment for staff members, Miller said.
Exhibitpro was able to partner with Phoenix engineering firm Augspurger Komm Engineering, where Shae Saint-Amor's husband, Justin Saint-Amor, works, Miller said.
Exhibitpro was able to cut plastic the business already had into the shape of shields, and the engineering firm 3D printed a band that connects the shield to the wearer's head, Miller said.
The first shipment of face shields to the Mayo Clinic was April 15, and the second was April 24, Miller said.
Less than a half mile down the road from Exhibitpro, Bocchi Laboratories, at 9200 Smith's Mill Road, has been making hand sanitizer.
Under normal circumstances, Bocchi is a contract manufacturer that makes many products for customers, said Elena Olivieri, vice president and general manager.
Some of the cosmetic products were alcohol-based, and Bocchi was able to begin producing hand sanitizer, she said.
Bocchi is manufacturing little to no other products, Olivieri said.
"We're having to react to the supply chain," she said.
About 70 people across multiple shifts are producing the sanitizer, and they are working voluntarily, Olivieri said. Other workers are at home, but all staff members still are on the payroll, she said.
Bocchi is producing 2-ounce bottles of sanitizer, as well as gallon containers for industrial use, Olivieri said. Customers provide the bottles, she said.
"We're trying to hit all the markets as best we can," she said.
Both new and old customers, from Ohio and beyond, have been reaching out for sanitizer, Olivieri said.
The company also is making 5,000 bottles of sanitizer to donate to central Ohio organizations, she said.
Olivieri said Bocchi wants to produce sanitizer for as long as possible. At some point, stores will reopen, and then the company will have to help the retail industry get back on its feet, she said.