Patriot Medical Devices LLC is helping to protect poll workers from COVID-19 this election season with medical face masks the family business makes in Cape Girardeau, Mo.
Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft's office ordered 25,000 of the masks in September, giving the new company one of its first big contracts. The masks are being distributed to election officials throughout the state.
Meanwhile, Patriot Medical Devices is churning out 10 million masks a month and hopes to boost that figure to 100 million each month, possibly by the end of this year, according to President Tyler Needham. The three-layer masks are made of nonwoven polypropylene: two outer layers of spun-bond PP and an inner filter of meltblown PP. Patriot buys the material from U.S. manufacturers.
The concept for the company began developing in April after the country's severe shortage of personal protective equipment became obvious.
"We're excited to be a part of rebuilding America's medical supply chain," Needham said in an Oct. 27 phone interview. U.S. capabilities in personal protective equipment have declined in recent years, which he believes has affected national security.
In the first quarter of next year, Needham hopes to begin manufacturing N95 masks, which Patriot currently distributes for companies like 3M and Honeywell.
"We're working to develop a fully automated machine" to make the N95s, he said.
The company began production of the three-layer masks in a temporary location in July and moved to its current location in August. The 60,000-square-foot facility used to belong to health care giant McKesson Corp., which closed the warehouse in 2011.
Needham's parents also are involved in the business: His father, Rick Needham, is co-founder and CEO, and his mother, Laura Monus Needham, is general counsel. The family hails from California, where Rick and Tyler Needham previously worked in real estate development and redevelopment. They chose to launch the company in Missouri because of its skilled labor, central location, available space and family business environment, Tyler Needham said.
The company currently employs 20-25 and has plans to expand the staff. "We're ramping up production capabilities and are going to be hiring," he said. "We're working on some pretty big deals and looking to bring more manufacturing jobs" to the area.