LYONS FALLS — Otis Technology, the Lewis County-based manufacturer of gun cleaning and maintenance products, and Saint Lawrence Spirits Distillery in Clayton have been working together to provide people on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic the materials they need to be safe.
The first run of 50,000 bottles of hand sanitizer manufactured last week is completely gone, according to Director of Marketing Heather Pleskach, and the team is working to get one last material to make the next batch for which there is already a waiting list.
Just after laying off part of its workforce to help “flatten the curve” of the novel coronavirus’ mounting number of victims, Otis’ Chief Executive Officer Larry Williams said, “We also began immediately asking ourselves, ‘How can we help?’”
When legal requirements were waived so spirit distillers could make hand sanitizer, it was a “no-brainer” for Saint Lawrence Spirits, co-owned by Doreen Garett, who founded and is the former CEO of Otis Technology, to combine forces with Otis’ bottling capabilities, Mrs. Pleskach said.
In addition to the hand sanitizer, the company also began making face shields needed by Crouse Hospital in Syracuse.
“We have a research and development facility in Phoenix, N.Y. You can give them pretty much anything and they’ll figure out the way to do it,” Mrs. Pleskach said.
That team, led by Jim Brooker, vice president of research and development, has been working with a number of local facilities and agencies to figure out how to use the materials Otis already has at its disposal or others they can easily access through their own supply chains, to make the products needed by health care and emergency professionals.
Going beyond the essential protective equipment they could make to donate and sell, Mrs. Pleskach said Otis also ordered a larger-than-usual amount of shoe covers, an item used regularly in the plant, to make them more readily available for agencies without the access Otis has to such items.
Mrs. Pleskach said the company is selling some of the products to cover their costs but that a portion of all the personal protection equipment they make will be donated.
Donations have already been made to the Lewis County Emergency Management department and Crouse, she said, while a donation offer to the Oswego County Emergency Management is pending final acceptance.
The workers impacted by the temporary layoff have not been brought back in yet to ensure “social distancing,” and the team is able to keep up with the demand at this time.
“I applaud my entire team’s efforts — working around the clock to get up and running,” Mr. Williams said in the news release.
In an attempt to avoid selling their products to middle-man suppliers that may price gouge as orders pour in from around the country for the items that are now in high demand, the company is choosing its customers carefully.
“We are prioritizing getting our product to the people that need it most,” Mrs. Pleskach said, including hospitals, public health, state agencies and other essential personnel on the “frontline” of the pandemic.
They have also stopped shipping commercial orders other than law enforcement and department of defense contracts.
Now, Otis is working with other companies interested in doing their parts, including Grand Slam Safety, LLC in Croghan and the Lodging Kit Company in Boonville, to help them use their capabilities and materials to fill other needs.
Mrs. Pleskach encouraged any business that believes it has resources to contribute but aren’t sure how to make it work, to reach out to Otis or other companies that have already gone beyond the “business as usual” models of their production lines.
“We will continue to do what we can, to get what we need, to get people what they need,” Mrs. Pleskach said.