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The pandemic pivot: A check-in with companies that shifted to help during COVID-19

Jacob Barker, CBC News
September 13, 2020

At the onset of the novel coronavirus, public officials scrambled to find ventilators and personal protective equipment to care for the sick and keep health care workers safe. While they were looking abroad to fill many of the needs — domestic businesses, including some in Windsor, stepped in to build capacity here at home.

Many of these businesses were seeing a big disruption in their day-to-day affairs due to the virus and a shift in focus became a temporary way to pitch in for some, while others found a new niche.

CBC Windsor checked in with some of those businesses to see how the pandemic pivot is going.

[…]

Auto parts

Automotive companies and the industry that feeds them parts also saw rough roads ahead as plants were temporarily closed due to concerns about the virus.

But a call went out for those companies to use their machine knowledge and capacity to help fill shortages of ventilators as well as build machines that could produce things like gowns and other personal protective equipment.

“We replaced about one percent of our industrial capacity with this,” Flavio Volpe, the president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturing Association, said. “Were it not for the capacity of this industry, we would not have been able to do this.”

Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturing Association, says 165 of its members initially stepped forward to help build medical equipment for the pandemic and 25 ended up with contracts. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

About 165 companies, who are members of the association, and other businesses in Windsor answered the call, according to Volpe. He said from his count about 25 of them ended up with contracts.

“Most, if not all of those contracts have been optioned as well that if we end up in a need in a second wave that we’ll be there to deliver for those who needs them,” Volpe said.

He said the for-profit companies spent money they didn’t have to partner with the government and try to find solutions.

“A lot of these businesses are the biggest employer in their towns, so if they didn’t step up then who would,” Volpe said.

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