By Jenn Watt
In a very short time Minden Hills company Tekrider plans to join the effort to make personal protective equipment temporarily switching from producing snowmobile and motorcycle body armour to medical gowns and washable cotton face masks.
As Canada’s medical system grapples with the rapid spread of the coronavirus calls have gone out to the private sector to help out.
However becoming a PPE producer isn’t always easy. For Tekrider the challenge was being designated an essential service which would allow the plant to continue operations.
A few weeks ago Tekrider owner and founder Steve Brand was on a snowmobile trip when it became clear that assistance from the private sector would be necessary. "That’s when I made some inquiries as to what we could do for PPE” Brand said.
He went through the initial steps of signing up on the provincial website but there was no mechanism to receive the “essential service” label that would allow them to move forward.
“Around and around we go for over a week” he said describing the administrative process “and so Liz Danielsen as the warden made the decision to write a letter.”
Brand said it was that letter that broke through the bureaucracy.
For her part Danielsen said it was an obvious decision to support a local business that could potentially supply local health-care services. She said the connection with Tekrider was initially made through Haliburton County’s paramedic services.
“When we realized there was that source [of PPE] so close to home and [Brand] let us know the trouble he was having … we’ve got to go to bat for companies that are able to help us that way” she said.
A letter of support for Tekrider’s proposal that outlined Haliburton County’s need for PPE was drafted. On April 1 the company was given the essential service designation Brand said.
While the administrative work was being done Brand was taking the necessary steps to get started quickly.
“In the meantime we’ve got all our prototyping done” he said. “I just went to Toronto and picked up two specialized sewing machines and we’ll probably have to get three more.”
So far he has had to make the investments in equipment himself.
Tekrider is approaching its 25th year in business next year employs about 15 people and is “the world’s number one selling upper body protective gear in snowmobiling” Brand said. Their primary product is the Tekvest.
Tekrider will make cotton masks that can be washed at the end of each day – not the N-95s or surgical masks – as well as gowns in several sizes. This week staff will be test-sewing the items to figure out how much time each one takes the cost of materials and the overhead costs to determine a per-unit price.
From their location outside Kinmount Tekrider is close enough to potentially supply several health-care facilities retirement homes and other institutions that might need gowns and masks. The intention is also to sell masks online – with pricing released on the company’s Facebook page.
“We really think we’ll be servicing the local area” he said.
Danielsen said she was pleased that Tekrider is able to move forward and thankful they were willing to go through the process of retooling for PPE.
“I’m grateful that there’s a company that’s local that’s using their initiative to be able to supply us with absolutely key equipment and supplies to help us deal with this emergency” she said.