GR company already helping on front lines hires laid-off workers

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grand Rapids company that has been helping to make the air safer to breath for front line workers in the COVID-19 crisis is now helping other employees who lost their jobs as a result of the economic shutdown.

Clean Rooms International recently made a major adjustment from making products primarily for electronics and aerospace companies to filling orders for hospitals for air filters and isolation systems.

The new unprecedented demand from hospitals all over the country required the company to create something out of existing parts and add a second shift, plus Saturdays.

“We’ve had to ramp up very, very quickly. We brought in upwards of 17 temporary employees at one point. Padnos furloughed a bunch of their employees and we were able to take a whole group of them,” explained Bret Asper, the chief Operation Officer for Clean Rooms.

A company that typically doesn’t get much feedback from customers is suddenly receiving letters of appreciation.

“We’ve received great letters and photographs of people in hospital rooms saying when our units arrive and when they plug them in, that the morale of the nurses immediately goes up,” President and CEO Tim Werkema said. He added, “What we’re doing pales in comparison to what they’re doing. They’re the heroes. We’re providing something to them to do their job to the best of their ability, but they’re the ones saving lives.”

Another piece of the puzzle right now has been protecting employees as they work to create spaces and devices that will protect caregivers and patients.

Asper said that is a top priority as they have employees wear masks every day and carry hand sanitizer with them along with following social distancing guidelines in the manufacturing process. No visitors are currently allowed on site.

He believes employees appreciate the importance of their work, and what it will mean for those who receive the products.

“They understand what the product we make is and where it’s going. These units we’re building, by tomorrow, they’ll be in a hospital where somebody is dying in New Jersey, and this is what’s going to help protect the caregivers that are keeping those folks alive,” Asper said.