Harkening back to war times of the past, Illinois Gov. J.B Pritzker on March 23 announced an unusual partnership with two business groups to scale up production and fund the purchase of more medical equipment needed to fight the COVID-19 epidemic.
Under the plan, the lllinois Manufacturers Association will match industrial companies that are prepared to shift production to items such as masks and ventilators with buyers and help them navigate often onerous federal rules.
A second group, the Illinois Biotechnology Innovation Organization, or iBIO, also will work on connecting producers and medical providers and is launching a fund to raise money to pay for products that are not donated.
Illinois companies and entrepreneurs produced the first cellphone, the first web brower and the first skyscraper, Pritzker noted. They "stood up to the challenges of their time." Today's companies and entrepreneurs are willing to do the same, he continued. "We need these supplies."
Pritzker's plan came after clashes between the governor and President Donald Trump clashed over whether federal officials are providing as much help as they can and should be.
The state has been able to accomplish some of what's needed in the private market, Pritzker said, with more than 3.5 million masks now ordered and on the way to the state.
IMA President Mark Denzler cited several examples of connections and conversions that already have occurred, with one liquor producer now making hand sanitizer, a plastics company working with Argonne National Lab to make test kits, a dozen firms interested in producing ventilators and a clothing manufacturer that's ready to switch from garments to masks.
Firms that are interested in producing or donating products should go to IMA's website.
John Conrad, president of iBIO, said his group is providing technical help to factories that want to switch their product mix as well as matching those who need with those who can provide.
The group also has formed a response fund for those who want to donate money to help local health care workers and first responders.
Meanwhile, Pritzker said he and Trump have finally spoken after a day of considerable back and forth between the two of them.
The governor said he called the president and the president called back. "I spoke with him directly about our need" for medical supplies "He said 'what do you need? . . .I'll work on that.'"
Trump did not indicate any willingness to order manufacturers to switch to certain goods, Pritzker added.