CLAYTON—Unless you work in the health care industry, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) can be tough to come by these days.
A Rabun County resident has teamed with the city of Clayton to help ease the shortage, and in the process, not only produce protective face shields, but provide much-needed employment for the area.
“I live at Rickman Airfield,” said Shaun Brautigan of Restaurant Dynamics, one of a family of Atlanta-area based companies that manufactures gaskets, custom plexiglass and items related to the restaurant industry. “We want to help our local community. They’ve all been so supportive. I wanted to give back.”
The manufacturing group recently converted their capacity to producing plexiglass for face shields, but found they needed an additional 50 or so employees to meet the demand.
“On the economic side of it, if we were to just employ another 50 people down at our (Norcross) facility, we didn’t really have the spacing,” Brautigan said. “And we know there is a need for employment here.”
Brautigan reached out to Clayton officials last week about locating an appropriate space to set up shop locally.
Mayor Jordan Green, himself a first responder, immediately saw the need.
Green signed an agreement Monday allowing Brautigan to lease the Community Room at city hall to produce the face shields on a temporary basis for a modest fee.
In the first day of operations in Clayton, Brautigan was running two six-hour shifts and had produced 3,000 face shields.
Brautigan said the first 1,000 shields made in Clayton will be donated to local first responders and health care workers, with another 1,000 to be donated for every 20,000 produced.
“We have two other facilities working to get out these masks,” he added, “Our goal is 20,000 a week (in Clayton), and 50,000 a week company wide.”
Eventually, Brautigan hopes to produce as many as a million of the protective shields.
“We have exceeded our goal on the first day,” said Heather DiCicco, who serves as project manager in Clayton. “Everyone has been so amazing.”
The company hired 25 local workers to assemble the face shields, and would like to double that number.
“We pay $10 an hour, and you just need to have a good attitude and a willingness to work” to be considered for employment, DiCicco said.
“We really want to encourage anyone who wants to work, they can work by the hour, half a day, whatever,” Brautigan said. “And we want to encourage anyone who has a need for these products to contact us. We would rather make them here (in Clayton) than be just another business in Atlanta. We want to see the end result in our community.”
Green, who works as a firefighter in Gainesville, said he acted quickly to help the company get up and going because he immediately recognized the need.
“It means a lot,” Green said Monday. “Where I work, I’m a front-line supervisor. When this pandemic first started, there were a lot of questions about why we were being told to use (protective equipment). These are people I spend a third of my life with, they’re like family to me. It was very painful to have to say that you have to reuse stuff (due to the PPE shortage) that historically we would throw away (after each use). I’ve heard stories, such as hospitals that don’t have enough supplies and can’t allow loved ones to come in and visit someone who is dying. That’s where something like this makes an impact. They will be donating to all first responders in Rabun County, and they are also reaching out to the park service and the Dept. of Natural Resources.”
Brautigan said he is able to sell the shields for about $4 each, while some companies charge as much as $15 for their products.
“We have seven laser machines running 24-hours a day cutting out this plastic,” he said. “That’s the value added. We outsource the rest of the materials.”
Individual components are being shipped to Clayton for final assembly.
“We really take time to make sure they are packaged properly,” Brautigan said. “Then they are shipped down to our corporate office and shipped out all over the country.”
Brautigan praised Clayton officials for reacting swiftly to make the vision a reality.
“Once we see this is going to be a continuing need, we will try to find our own facility,” he added. “The city has been great.”
The company hopes their efforts will also help local businesses as they transition to reopening in the future.
“I started reaching out to restaurants and other small businesses that typically don’t get access to PPEs,” DiCicco said. “If anyone gets access to it now, it’s going to be the health care industry. But you have small businesses that need it in order to open up.”
For more information on the shields or employment with the company in Clayton, email DiCicco at email@example.com.