Dowagiac company contributes to protective equipment during pandemic

DOWAGIAC — A Dowagiac company specializing in custom pouches, pockets, pads and cushions, as well as healthcare products, is contributing to the need for personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic.

J.A.C. Custom Pouches, Inc., 56525 Woodhouse Dr., Dowagiac, is a second generation, family-owned business. With the constant need of PPE for front-line healthcare workers, the company shifted to entirely making cotton masks and surgical gowns.

“The location in Dowagiac was started in 1980,” said owner Jay Garside. “We make custom-sewn products. Basically, anything from different bags to healthcare products.”

Garside, who also owns, Outerwears, Inc., located in Schoolcraft, Michigan, which produces products involved in air filtration for general automotive and power sports, said production at both facilities has shifted.

“Initially, we started PEE production to help the community in an effort to make sure the health care personnel had access to PPE,” Garside said. “Then we received some interest from different hospital groups and companies interested in the products.”

Garside said he has been contacted by companies who want to supply protective equipment for their employees when they return back to work and are still adhering to social distancing guidelines.

By staying open and helping essential workers, Garside said the project has provided products for his employees to work on. Last week, more than 134,119 Michigan residents filed for unemployment, according to numbers released from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Garside said employees have also had to adapt to the change and quickly learn new techniques. At the facility, industrial sewing machines are used. J.A.C. Custom Pouches Inc. also uses the process of sonic welding seams to cut and seal fabric without creating raw edges or stitch holes, according the website. This prevents their medical items from being penetrated by chemicals, blood borne pathogens or particulates which is required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Garside said J.A.C. Custom Pouches Inc. is a type of employer that draws its workforce from the local community and region.

“I would think everyone feels good about supporting the community and those that are on the front lines,” Garside said.

Garside said both J.A.C. Custom Pouches Inc., and Outerwears, Inc. will continue to put an emphasis on PPE production as long as there is a need.

“It is a moving target and things change daily,” he said. “We are focusing only on essential products. Some of the other product lines have sat, and we have been able to shift some capacity, while maintaining some of the current product mix.”

While cloth masks created at the facilities are sold, Garside’s supplies are also provided for free to community members who are making masks at home and donating them.

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