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Powers Manufacturing fills need for hospital gowns

Powers Manufacturing fills need for hospital gowns

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WATERLOO — Powers Manufacturing Co. has a long history of ensuring sports teams are properly outfitted for battle.

Today, the 118-year-old Waterloo clothing manufacturer has retooled its operations to make sure doctors and other health care professionals fighting the coronavirus pandemic have the necessary personal protective wear.

Powers Manufacturing is now producing medical-grade hospital gowns at its plant on Sycamore Street in the former Rath Packing Co. neighborhood for UnityPoint Health to use at Allen Hospital and its other clinics.

“We’re happy to do it,” said company president Grant Weidner. “This is an unsettling time for people, and I think it just helps (our employees) to feel good knowing they can take the skills they have and make a difference.”

Powers Manufacturing delivered its first batch of hospital gowns to Allen Hospital on April 23 and is working on additional orders from UnityPoint Health.

“I think there’s going to be a period here where, unless we need to run some other product, we’ll just be running the gowns,” Weidner said.

Weidner is the great-great-great nephew of Leonard Powers, who founded the company in 1902. The company employs about 95 people at its facilities on Sycamore Street and also works with factories in the Dominican Republic and El Salvador.

Powers Manufacturing makes custom team athletic uniforms under its own Powers brand and is the North American licensee for Under Armour custom team uniforms. It outfits high school, college and club teams in most major sports, including football, basketball, baseball, hockey, wrestling, and lacrosse.

Sporting events around the world have been put on hold to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“Once it hit nationally and the states started restricting businesses from being open we started seeing a slowdown in orders coming in,” Weidner said. “Now that time has gone on you’re starting to see some of it on the financial side.

“For us is wasn’t an immediate hit like it would be for a restaurant,” he added. “But we’re catching it now on the back side.”

Powers Manufacturing was able to keep its 95 employees working on a backlog of sports uniforms but also believed its crews could help produce face masks which were in high demand at medical facilities.

“We contacted Allen to see if they wanted any masks, and we made some for them,” Weidner said. “They said what they really needed was gowns and asked if we could help.”

Mike Lind, executive director of the Allen Foundation, said the foundation staff has been asked to help source the vital PPE often in short supply during the pandemic.

“Our leadership’s biggest concern is to keep our team members and community members safe,” Lind said. “To do that, we need personal protective equipment.

“The needs seem to switch by the day and by the hour,” he added. “But one of the biggest needs was these gowns.”

Weidner said Allen Hospital provided a sample of one of the gowns, and Powers Manufacturing was able to recreate the design without much modification of its equipment.

“We were able to find some (medical-grade) fabric, which is a hard thing to do when everybody wants it,” he said. “We weren’t able to get as much as we wanted, but we were able to get some and brought that inside.”

Powers Manufacturing partially donated that first batch of gowns to Allen Hospital. They were then contact by UnityPoint Health, which was able to source thousands of yards of more material and contracted with the company to produce even more gowns for its facilities.

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