Businesses Shift to PPE Production

Local manufacturing companies are switching gears to make facemasks and face shields for frontline workers and the community

By Maggie Dresser
Colten and Amanda Hart, owners of Hartstone Designs, a new face mask manufacturing company in Kalispell, are pictured on April 8, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

In 2016, Amanda and Colten Hart dove into the magical world of the wooden Harry Potter wand-making business, which later transitioned into furniture making. Fast forward to 2020, and they are now manufacturing facemasks.

Once COVID-19 took hold in the Flathead Valley and health-care workers began facing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) shortages, they halted all wooden products at their Kalispell-based Hartstone Designs to shift gears and focus on manufacturing facemasks for healthcare workers and community members.

“Everybody is sitting around saying, ‘What can I do?’” Amanda said. “It’s very scary out there and you feel like you need to do something, and this is how we felt that we can help.”

To address the needs of health-care professionals, law enforcement and firefighters, the Harts are making as many masks as possible. They started production on April 7 with three workers, making 100 masks a day, and they hope to expand to 50 employees while helping those who lost their jobs.

“We’re helping first responders and also helping support people who don’t have jobs right now,” Amanda said.

Made with 100% cotton, Amanda says they modeled their machine-washable masks after a nurse-designed mask in New York City, made with paracord strings that tie behind the person’s head instead of looping around the ears. They are also designed with an adjustable nose and a filter pocket in case it gets wet from prolonged usage.

The Harts set up a pledge program to ensure workers on the frontline are able to get masks for free. They’ve already received donations that pay for 600 masks as of Friday, April 10, which were given to the Montana Highway Patrol, Kalispell Police Department, Whitefish Police Department and South Kalispell Fire Department.

Marisol Cottam works at a sewing machine at Hartstone Designs, a new company in Kalispell manufacturing face masks, as seen on April 8, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

A Buy a Mask, Give a Mask program has also been set up, where individuals can buy a mask for $15, which includes the donation of a second mask. Single masks can be purchased for $10.

On Friday, April 10, Hartstone Designs held a donation drive where individuals donated $5 for a mask, which helped raise $1,130 to make 226 masks.

“Every time we get funding donations, we’re able to go that many more days,” Amanda said.

Amanda hopes with more funding, they can increase their production exponentially.

“I talk a lot about wanting to flatten the curve,” Amanda said. “We as a community can overcome this together and it’s a matter of pulling together and helping each other during this time.”

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Additionally, Applied Materials in Kalispell is manufacturing face shields for health-care workers to help combat COVID-19. On Friday, April 10, the technology company donated its first round of 130 shields to Kalispell Regional Healthcare (KRH), according to the company’s Montana general manager, Brian Aegerter.

Applied Materials employees Sam Bullock and Jon Kuntz spearheaded the idea to use 3-dimensional printers to make the shields, which are manufactured, assembled and packaged in Kalispell.

“It is truly a team effort by many of our employees,” Aegerter said.

The company has already donated 300 shields total, and plans to continue its production and donate nearly 1,000 face shields to KRH, the Flathead County Office of Emergency Services and the community

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