Problem solving the key to success for Dowagiac manufacturer

Published 2:11 pm Friday, August 13, 2021

DOWAGIAC — See a need and fill it.

That was the slogan Jean and Harry Coleman implemented when they founded their company, JAC Custom Pouches, in 1989.

Now, more than 30 years later, the Dowagiac manufacturer continues to live up to that slogan by developing commercially sewn products for companies across the country.

President Jay Garside was the guest speaker at the Dowagiac Rotary Club’s meeting Thursday at Front Street Crossing in downtown Dowagiac. He said the “JAC” in JAC Custom Pouches stands for Jean A. Coleman, the company’s co-founder. The first product the Colemans made when the company started in the 80s was a custom tool pouch.

Located on 56525 Woodhouse Dr., the business has grown to supply a variety of products including custom bags, operating room pads and hospital accessories to numerous industries.

“We’re approved to make class one medical devices, which are devices that do not enter the body,” Garside said. “We also make aviation pouches that are specific to tools, and we make stuff for the military.”

Garside said the company is making a cell phone pouch for high school students to put their phones in while in class. The pouch is sealed with Velcro, so that it makes noise when opened, alerting teachers to cell phone use in class.

The technology has been used by select teachers at Dowagiac Union High School and will be used by a Niles classroom in the fall, Garside said.

“The core of what we do now is create solutions to a problem,” Garside said. “Most of our products are contract-manufactured parts. They’re designs that come to us or problems that come to us. We’ll come up with a solution, and then it becomes a product once we design it.”

JAC Custom Pouches designs products for Fortune 500 companies as well as small businesses.

“We’ve made special pouches for fire departments for their pagers,” Garside said. “Those would be examples of local products spread throughout the southwest Michigan area.”

The manufacturer was deemed an essential business at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year and was tasked with making cotton masks and surgical gowns, according to Garside. He said that production has since returned to its normal schedule.

“We were pretty busy, because a lot of what we do is medical and you can imagine the hospitals at the time needed things,” he said. “They pivoted, and they stopped elective surgeries, which is a lot of what we would make are components for elective surgeries. We started making masks and gowns before recently resuming our current product line. Now the hospitals are back doing elective surgeries, so we’re seeing a rebound with those products. Supply chains, labor, everything is really tough right now. We’re doing our best to keep people in stock of products.”

Garside said J.A.C. Custom Pouches Inc. emphasizes building its workforce from the local community and region.

“Our vision is to improve our employees, our customers and our community,” he said. “A lot of our staff is directly from this area, and you can see the sense of pride the staff has for its community.”