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Two Fall River businesses receive MA grant funds to develop new products to assist COVID-19 response



BOSTON – The Baker-Polito Administration has awarded over $6.5 Million to 13 Massachusetts organizations to develop new products to assist in the response to the COVID-19 public health emergency. The new grants from the Massachusetts Manufacturing Emergency Response Team will expand the Commonwealth’s work to drive in-state manufacturing of critical products, an effort which has produced more than 11 million pieces of personal protective equipment and other critical pieces as of September.

The new grants, announced during national Manufacturing Month, bring the total MERT awards to $16.2 million, and have spurred the production of critical items including N95 masks, protective gowns, hand sanitizer, and ventilators. Since its inception, the MERT has mobilized, organized, and operationalized the critical work streams that allowed Massachusetts manufacturers to pivot their operations to produce needed materials in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The new awards support infrastructure and workforce training efforts at each company, driving increased production from these ‘Made in Massachusetts’ manufacturers.

“The MERT program continues to identify and support successful ‘Made in Massachusetts’ manufacturers that produce Personal Protective Equipment for our front-line responders, business owners, and residents,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “This program and the sheer output from these manufacturers has been central to the Commonwealth’s fight against COVID-19.”

“Our administration is pleased to support these capital and workforce training requests to ensure Massachusetts’ manufacturing sector will continue to produce in the face of these tough economic times,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “As we emerge from this public health crisis, our hope is that these new product lines spur job creation and drive growth for these companies, while also establishing new supply chains for our in-state purchasers of PPE.”

“As the chair of the Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative, I couldn’t be prouder to support these grantees, and to remind people across the nation and world that we make things here in Massachusetts,” said Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Mike Kennealy. “Not only has this new home-grown production of PPE benefited those battling this virus on the frontlines, but it has also contributed to our ability to safely reopen the Commonwealth’s economy.”

“The Commonwealth has the most educated and best-trained workforce in the U.S.,” said Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Rosalin Acosta. “These grants will allow Massachusetts to tap into that unparalleled advanced manufacturing talent pool and help to provide the equipment that workers in industries across the Commonwealth are depending on.”

Launched in April 2020, the MERT grant program made its first set of awards in May 2020, when it provided $9.5 million to 15 Massachusetts organizations that are now producing masks, gowns, ventilators, swabs, and testing materials, as well as boosting the capacity to test these critical items. The MERT grants support the purchase of equipment, working capital, materials, and workforce development efforts with funding provided by a partnership that includes the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MassTech), Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, Commonwealth Corporation, and the Massachusetts Manufacturing Innovation Initiative (M2I2).

“The companies supported by the MERT have produced millions of pieces of PPE and set themselves apart nationally for the speed and efficiency with which they put these critical items into the hands of front line workers,” said Carolyn Kirk, Executive Director of MassTech. “We’ve seen similar trends with our first set of grantees, who’ve taken the state funding and made huge gains in a short amount of time. It’s been an honor to lead the MERT and to work with our partners to help these companies.”

“The Life Sciences Center is proud to be part of this continued effort to provide the necessary support to manufacturers located throughout the Commonwealth,” said Damon Cox, Interim President and CEO of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center. “The MERT represents the Commonwealth’s collaborative DNA in action as academic, industry, and government stakeholders remain steadfast in their commitment to work together to leverage resources and expertise to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Our grant programs are designed to provide workers with the skills they need for lifelong careers and today we are also providing a lifeline to our dedicated frontline workers,” said Commonwealth Corporation CEO and President Christine Abrams. “This grant program has been critical to the Commonwealth’s recovery from the impact of the coronavirus, while supporting the pivot of manufacturers impacted by the pandemic, bolstering the stabilization of the Massachusetts economy.”

“AFFOA is proud to be working with the MERT and facilitating the strategic investments being made into manufacturing across the Commonwealth,” said Sasha Stolyarov, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer of Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA). “Our domestic manufacturing ecosystem is more robust and resilient today thanks to the forward-thinking vision of the MERT and the innovative spirit of our manufacturers.”

Of the $16.1 million awarded through the MERT grant program:

$7.2 million to support the development of protective masks (45 percent of the total);

$3.2 million for COVID-19 testing (20 percent);

$3.2 million for gowns (20 percent);

$1.4 million for ventilators;

$630,000 for testing of PPE;

$341,000 for hand sanitizer; and

$257,000 for support of materials/supply chain.

The MERT is a coordinated effort comprised of members from academia, industry, and government to address the urgent need for PPE to support health care workers on the front lines of Massachusetts’ COVID-19 response. More than 900 companies from around the world submitted their interest to the MERT, including over 550 from Massachusetts. Of those, over 50 companies have made it through the program, producing hundreds of thousands of pieces of PPE and other critical items each week, totaling more than 11 million since the start of the pandemic. Managed by MassTech, the quasi-public economic development agency that oversees advanced manufacturing programs for the Commonwealth, the MERT was devised as an emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic and will continue to assist manufacturers in targeted ways as the demand for PPE continues.

Three local businesses received grant money including two with Fall River locations.

Avila Textiles, Inc. from Dighton was awarded $85,775.25, with $14,000 for workforce training.

Since 1995, Avila has produced quality narrow woven fabrics. Their equipment and trained personnel enable Avila to produce over 3,000 different webbing constructions, meeting specifications of the U.S. government and foreign customers.

CareAline Products received $101,250, with $80,000 for workforce training.

Headquartered in Danvers and with manufacturing in Fall River, CareAline is experienced in innovating and manufacturing medical safety garments that are purchased by hospitals for vascular access safety. Their contracted manufacturing facility will produce reusable Level 1 isolation gowns

Precision Sportswear with headquarters in Fall River, received $32,755.

Precision’s employees produce medical items for manufacturers including CareAline Products, AliMed, DM Medical Sommerfly, US Bedding, and American Players.

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