This pandemic has turned U.S. business upside down. Some companies, who’ve lost a good chunk of their normal revenues, have altered their manufacturing approach and are now churning out products that, in some cases, are focused on keeping people safe.
CGTN’s Hendrik Sybrandy profiles two such firms in the state of Colorado.
In 2013, floods ravaged parts of Colorado. A brand new distillery in the town of Lyons bounced back to produce what it called a flood-proof whiskey two years later.
“We thought one disaster was enough really,” said Craig Engelborn, co-founder of Spirit Hound Distillers while laughing.
Today his distillery is responding to an even bigger crisis by cranking out a product that’s far from its core mission: hand sanitizer.
“There’s a certain amount of feeling good about what we’re doing,” he said.
Meantime, 3D Printing Colorado in the city of Broomfield has taken on work that falls outside its normal expertise: face masks and face shields.
“We’re coming up with new designs and different designs and different manufacturing techniques,” said Nick Yosha, 3D Printing Colorado’s Vice-President.
They’re two of countless American companies that have pivoted their operations as a result of this pandemic, partly out of necessity.
Although their liquor store whiskey sales have held up, Spirit Hound’s bar and restaurant business has evaporated. The outbreak has hurt 3D Printing Colorado’s usual business as well.
“It’s certainly taken a toll, that’s for certain,” Yosha said. He was approached about printing face gear early on in the pandemic. “We were kind of flying by the seat of our pants here trying to figure out what was the best way and best thing we could do to help out,” he said.
Spirit Hound, reacting to the clear need for hand sanitizer, had to determine whether they could and would be allowed to make it. The answer was yes.
“We’re licensed to handle the ethanol that’s going to go into the sanitizer,” Engelborn said. “We understand it, we have the scales and the hydrometers and the equipment necessary to test it, make sure we’re doing it right… From that point to now we’ve produced roughly 750 gallons of hand sanitizer.” Or more than 28-hundred liters.
There have been some challenges along the way. The distillery has had trouble finding ingredients and plastic bottles. Yosha has had to satisfy his dentist wife who wears face masks every day.
“I’ll bring a new design home and she hates it and that’s discouraging and then I’ll bring a new design home and she has some positive comments on that so that’s encouraging,” Yosha said.
The two companies’ products have benefited a wide variety of first responders and front line medical workers. It’s kept them from laying off staff. And it’s helped struggling bartenders who get a portion of the donations for the hand sanitizer.
“It encourages me that there’s so many people and individuals and companies that have a common goal and to see everything come together,” Yosha said.
“It makes me kind of happy that U.S. manufacturing can actually step up,” Engelborn said. “We survived through the flood and part of the reason we survived is we were the beneficiary of other people’s generosity, and having lived through that I want to make sure that we give back.”
Englehorn has enjoyed retrofitting his business to meet this critical moment, but he’s ready to get back to creating hand-crafted spirits and cocktails, get back to normal. “Yeah please come up,” he said. “We’ll drink a whiskey or old-fashioned and have a good time, and I can talk about the more fun things we do.”