Sewing machine firm expands into PPE

Merrow says it’s in business for long haul

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER on Tuesday showcased a Fall River sewing machine manufacturer that has expanded during the COVID-19 crisis into the production of personal protection equipment and is now expecting that will be a major part of its business going forward.

The Merrow Sewing Machine Co. over the last 40 days has launched a new business making medical isolation gowns, ramping up production to supply personal protection equipment initially to customers in Massachusetts and Rhode Island but eventually the entire country.  The company has added 41 employees so far and expects to add 100 more at full buildout in July when the firm is producing 650,000 gowns a week.

Baker hailed the company for pivoting to provide equipment the state desperately needs, but Charlie Merrow said the company plans to be in the business of personal protection equipment for the long haul producing a wide variety of products.

“There’s an opportunity right now for this to branch into many, many product categories that are built around similar supply chains,” Merrow said.

Charlie Merrow of the Merrow Sewing Machine Co. at a press conference in Fall River with Gov. Charlie Baker.

Merrow said the company shipped out 15,000 of its isolation garments on Tuesday and expects to deliver 3 to 4 million over the next several months to the states of Massachusetts and Rhode Island and hospitals in both states. Massachusetts currently has an order in for 2.5 million gowns, Baker said.

Merrow said his company has an advantage now in the US market with a worldwide shortage of personal protection equipment, but he and Baker said the sales should not grind to a halt when the world’s economy returns to something resembling normal.

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Bruce Mohl

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About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

“There is no question are product is much more expensive to build than a product that’s built in China,” Merrow said. “When we look at the policies that need to be discussed and implemented after COVID, part of it is going to contemplate how health care systems and how states can have a reliable source of essential medical products when there’s a disruption at the ports. Merrow’s role is not to build the least expensive product. It’s to build a product that is better than could be made available otherwise and be here regardless of what’s going on at the ports.”

The Merrow Sewing Machine Co. got into the business of personal protection equipment with the help of the Baker administration’s Manufacturing Emergency Response Team. Baker administration officials said 667 companies have reached out to the team so far, including 424 from Massachusetts.