Two Fall River companies are among 13 Massachusetts organizations to split over $6.5 million in grants awarded by the Baker-Polito Administration 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 (MERT) 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 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 Gov. Charlie Baker. “This program and the sheer output from these manufacturers has been central to the Commonwealth’s fight against COVID-19.”

CareAline Products was awarded $101,250, with $80,000 going toward 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 of Fall River received $32,755 in grant money. Their employees produce medical items for manufacturers including CareAline Products, AliMed, DM Medical Sommerfly, US Bedding and American Players.

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 manufacturers.

“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. Gov. 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.”

“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,” Kennealy said.

Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Rosalin Acosta added that “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.”

Commonwealth Corporation CEO and President Christine Abrams said these 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.”

“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,” Abrams said.

• $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

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.

Read the original article on South Coast Today.


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