After switch to face masks, Cullman’s HomTex is developing long-term PPE plans
“This equipment will make us one of the largest domestic manufacturers of this product, and it will all be done right here in Cullman,” said Wootten.
“We’re going to make hundreds of millions of these surgical masks. The production capacity will be around 350 million of these per year.
Wootten said HomTex is making rapid progress with its growth plans.
The company secured a $ 1.5 million loan from the Cullman County Economic Development Agency to cover the down payment on the equipment. He worked with the Alabama Department of Commerce and others on incentives to speed up the project.
“Our goal is to start operations in June and reach full production in July,” said Wootten.
Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, said HomTex has the ability to become a key production source in the United States for disposable surgical masks that healthcare workers across the country need today. hui and in the future.
“The coronavirus pandemic has made it clear that our country needs a reliable home production pipeline for PPE, and the operation of HomTex in Alabama can be an important player in meeting part of this critical need,” said declared Secretary Canfield.
“In fact, we would like to see Alabama become an American hub for the production of these materials.”
While many Alabama businesses have rotated to temporarily produce protective equipment During the crisis, HomTex was one of the first companies in the state to plan a major capital investment to establish PPE production, he said.
In addition to supporting HomTex, Commerce adopted recruiting personal protective equipment producers as a new strategic priority, and Secretary Canfield has been personally involved in the effort since March.
1 MILLION MASKS
Since changing production focus, Wootten said HomTex has made nearly a million of its washable and reusable cotton face masks.
“In early March, it became evident that we had a shortage of PPE in this country. We were getting calls from people with all kinds of needs, ”he said. “We looked at what we can do to support this.
“We are in a unique position because as a large national manufacturer of sheets, we had a large stock of cotton fabrics. Face masks seemed to be a major need. “
The HomTex team, led by the company’s chief engineer who has experience in the garment industry, designed a face mask in just a few days. After some testing, a mask bearing the company’s DreamFit brand entered full production at the end of March.
The demand was widespread. A few days ago, Commerce requested 1,000 masks for its staff and employees of AIDT, the state’s main workforce development agency. Local authorities bought DreamFit masks. Three Alabama election committees acquired masks to use in the July primary elections.
“The majority of business goes to private industry like utilities, manufacturing operations and companies planning to reopen need the product to be able to reopen,” Wootten said.
“We have also processed thousands and thousands of individual orders placed on our website. We have shipped to Washington State.
Wootten said 75 percent of HomTex’s production has shifted to cotton masks as retail orders for its linens and other products dried up amid the coronavirus crisis.
MADE IN ALABAMA
HomTex, founded by Wootten’s father Jerry, who is still active in the business, operates five production sites and has offices in China and India. The company has 300 employees, including 136 in Cullman County.
The expansion in PPE production means a major growth spurt for the company’s Cullman operations, Wootten said. The project has garnered support from the state legislative branch, including State Senator Garlan Gudger de Cullman.
“It will almost double our employment here in Cullman, and these are high paying jobs. We use state-of-the-art and highly technical equipment, ”he said. “Based on the investment, this is not a one-time use. This PPE activity is a new adventure for us.
“It will be long term, and we are delighted to be able to do it here in Alabama.”
Wootten said he believed one of the legacies of the COVID-19 pandemic would be a better understanding of the strategic importance of the U.S. textile industry and its production capabilities.
“If anything good can come out of this situation, it is that the country is starting to realize that our national textile industry has all but disappeared, and this has caused a strategic disadvantage in our supply of PPE,” he said. he declares.