A new $50,000 city grant fund is launching to provide grants to Baltimore manufacturers who are shifting their operations to make products to protect against COVID-19.
Announced on Wednesday by Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young and the Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC) along with its Made in Baltimore program on Wednesday, the fund will allow businesses to request up to $7,500 to offset costs for equipment materials and labor.
“It is essential that we provide new and innovative ways to support our local manufacturing, especially during these critical times,” Young said in a statement. “This grant will specifically support Baltimore businesses in their production of much needed Personal Protective Equipment, including vital wage support.”
In order to qualify, businesses must be making products identified on the state Department of Commerce’s Maryland Critical Needs List. These include masks, gowns, face shields and gloves, as well as hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes.
With the shortage of protective equipment for front-line workers, Baltimore’s makers and manufacturers have converted operations to help with supplies. Andy Cook, who is program manager for BDC’s Made in Baltimore program, counts a dozen such operations.
It has also brought businesses together that spun up production quickly. Last week, for instance, Remington-based Mount Royal Soap Co. joined up with Charm City Meadworks and Waverly Color Company to make hand sanitizer.
Using a formula released by the World Health Organization, the three founders of Mount Royal Soaps started their operation in a 20-quart stock pot and teamed with Charm City Meadworks to expand. The craft beverage company produces honey, which is about the same consistency as hand sanitizer. They’ve since bought a tanker truck of alcohol and are now producing in a pair of 1,200 gallon tanks at the Meadworks facility. And Waverly Color Company, which supplies tattoo shops, had pocket-sized bottles. With production at Charm City Meadworks, Mount Royal Soaps’ showroom and production facility is now a shipping and fulfillment facility.
“We’ve been supplying, on average, 1,000, units a day to Baltimore city government,” said Pat Iles, a cofounder of Mount Royal Soap Co. It is being used by Baltimore’s fire department, sanitation workers with the Department of Public Works and senior housing facilities, as well as postal workers around the state.
The operation is also employing the staff members from the three businesses that were disrupted when social distancing measures were put in place to keep up with demand. Iles said they are looking to keep getting supplies, and continue producing.
There’s also a need to keep making equipment for medical professionals, as shown when Greenmount West makerspace Open Works kicked off an effort to make face shields for local hospitals, and put out the call to volunteer 3D printers who have since responded in droves. And Innovation Works is interfacing with the healthcare system to help identify what’s needed.
With the new fund from the city, the open call is going out that funding is available. The grant is designed to help with retooling costs, materials and labor, Cook said.
“It is a way to help our small manufacturers tool up to meet this very immediate need in a rapid way,” he said. “Our hope is that it helps in the short term but also helps small manufacturers in the long-term” — and looking beyond the crisis, it can also help them gain more experience, as well as connections with the city’s anchor institutions.
Applications are available on Made in Baltimore’s website. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.-30-