PITTSFIELD, Maine — As coronavirus numbers across the country sky-rocket, the need for COVID testing swabs only goes up. Initially based in Guilford, Puritan has built two new facilities in Pittsfield with federal government aid.
"The swabs in Guilford for COVID was in excess of 17 million a month...this facility here will be into the 90 to 100 million swabs a month," Timothy Templet, Executive Vice President of Sales for Puritan, said.
The request from the federal government was to build a facility that could produce 40 million swabs a month. Currently, the new Pittsfield facility is producing 90 to 100 million swabs a month.
Templet and other business officials sparked up a solid strong team with contractors build the equipment and Cianbro was the contractor who constructed the new facility in just months. "We did it in record-breaking time and now we are on to the third one," Templet said.
Templet said the reception for workers has been strong so far but the company still needs to hire hundreds of workers, all permanent jobs.
Templet explains the need in numbers, "we will need at least another 600 employees to round out the two facilities...out of the 600 needed we probably have 280 almost 300."
"It's been a struggle at times to get them onboarded, get them trained, and get them right into a machine to operate for us but at this facility, we are finally getting there."
Templet tells NEWS CENTER Maine the company is thinking of opening a new fourth plant outside the state of Maine.
Guilford was able to produce 17 million swabs a month, but with the exaggerated coronavirus numbers throughout the country and them being the only COVID swab manufacturer in the US, they saw the urgent need to expand and meet the demand. "This facility here will be in the 90 to 100 million swabs a month," added Timplet. Together that would be 120 million swabs a month.
Because of the demand, Puritan is not exporting swabs beyond the US, all of the swabs are used throughout the country to test thousands of people for the coronavirus.
Puritan Medical Products is the only company in the United States making the swabs used to test for the coronavirus.
"COVID's hit home for a lot of us," Puritan worker Cody Curtis said. "We've all come together in all different backgrounds from actors to healthcare workers to teachers, and it's just so cool to see everybody come together."
Cody Curtis has been training to make swabs for the past two weeks, "I just moved back from New York in March, I was an actor and singer there."
"If I can do something to even help out you know individuals...in any way possible, I think this is a great opportunity," Curtis said. "I was in the healthcare field for three years and just to do my part at this moment."
A third Puritan facility, also in Pittsfield is in its final construction stages, it is set to open in March and with that facility comes another 50 million swabs a month.
"The government has demanded a very very tight schedule, it's unheard of," Pete Vigue, chairman of Cianbro said.
Vigue said construction workers started the first Pittsfield facility in May and was complete this past October, the second Pittsfield plant start right after the other one was finished and will be completed in March. "Building industrial markets is a key part of this business [referencing Cianbro]," Vigue said.
Construction company Cianbro designed and repurposed the old San Antonio Shoe manufacturing facility. "It's a 24 hour, 7 days a week operation, there have been in the two projects about 700 people involved," Vigue said.
Besides Cianbro, different contractors from New England and Maine have helped to make these COVID swab facilities in no time. "Employing a number of people during a very critical time, but also helped to fulfill a need that the government has requested," Vigue said.
Vigue said the biggest challenge the construction company faced was to make sure all of its 700 workers were safe and COVID-free, Cianbro took additional measures to test its workers as frequently as possible, temperature checks before its shift, and they are required to wear masks while working.
Puritan was recently awarded the most important manufacturer in the world by Inc. Magazine.
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