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story.lead_photo.caption Stanco employee Stacy Blevins sews elastic into face masks, just one of the personal protective equipment the company is now manufacturing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Line stations have been moved so that employees are 6 feet from each other. (Photo by Kate Stow)

ATLANTA, Texas — Stanco Manufacturing is making personal protective equipment to help the warriors on the local and national frontlines of the COVID-19 battle.

The Cass County company, which has production plants in China, Mexico, and the United States, is a leading manufacturer of safety-wear for welders, electricians and other industries that require a higher level of protection.

But they are refitting some of their manufacturing lines in the Atlanta plant to produce PPE.

With surgeries being cancelled because of lack of protection in the operating room, the manufacturer couldn't have stepped up soon enough.

Surgical and hospital gowns will be sold to hospitals and clinics only in Cass and Bowie counties; masks will be sold nationwide.

Both CHRISTUS St. Michael Health Center and Wadley Regional Medical Center have expressed interest in buying the personal protection equipment from Stanco.

Stanco President Mark Stanley said they are using the CAD system to design dies to fit their cutting machines so they can mass produce the items.

Through Paulson Manufacturing, a supplier of theirs in California, Stanco is offering a new line to their customers, consisting of clear face shields and goggles.

"The face shields came in last (week) and we donated 60 to Genesis Primecare and 10 to HealthCARE Express," Stanley said. "The COO of Genesis drove from Texarkana to shake my hand; he was so appreciative. They just couldn't get them anywhere."

The specialty fabric used for the gowns, BioSmart by Milliken & Company, has arrived and production is underway. The woven cotton gowns will be reusable up to 70 washes, just like the masks.

"We've gotten the face mask process down to 18 seconds per mask. We'll have three dedicated lines of five people each," Stanley explained. "The gowns are a little more complicated, and will take about 20 minutes a piece to assemble. We should get faster on all the items We're already ahead of the curve by having the dies for the cutting machine. We can cut 30 pieces at a time."

Stanco will still be running their regular lines, which are used by energy companies, construction companies, steel mills and aluminum plants.

The PPE lines will run until supplies are replenished nationwide. As Stanley says, "even when the virus is gone, we'll have to build supplies back up."

He estimates that will take anywhere from two to three months. At the rate of 180 masks per hour, it will take the Atlanta plant about four weeks to produce 100,000 of the cotton masks.

"Our New York salesmen have a great need for these right now in their market. We have been working here seven days a week to get ready for this," Stanley said.

The 30-year-old company has 48 employees in its flagship location in Atlanta and 225 contract employees worldwide.

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