HELENA – Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana (BCBSMT) is donating $10,000 to aid in the manufacture of personal protective equipment in collaboration with the Montana Manufacturing Extension Center (MMEC) at Montana State University.
The funds will support the purchase of raw materials to help Bozeman’s West Paw and Missoula’s Diversified Plastics produce and distribute plastic injected molded face masks and cloth face masks, which are being distributed to Montana health care workers. The two companies, along with many others throughout Montana, have quickly diverted manufacturing resources to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This donation from BCBSMT will help us continue with our research and development,” Diversified Plastics owner Brad Reid said. “So far, we have purchased and distributed reusable Montana masks manufactured at Spark R&D and are also working with Salient Technologies who is designing reusable cartridge holders.”
West Paw CEO and President Spencer Williams added, “Montana is a collaborative place for manufacturers who care deeply about our communities. Our ability to rise to this PPE challenge by making cloth face masks for our front-line medical professionals would not be possible without the design, sourcing, and manufacturing expertise at fellow Montana manufacturer, Mystery Ranch. This generous donation from BCBSMT will be shared with Mystery Ranch allowing the labor and raw materials we both share to go farther.”
West Paw is widely known for producing top-of-the-line dog toys, beds, collars and leashes, while Diversified Plastics produces a variety of parts to a wide range of industries.
“We are a Montana company and we’re here to proudly support local ingenuity to battle COVID-19 and keep our providers safe,” BCBSMT President Collette Hanson said.
Over the last month, MMEC has been working with a number of individual manufacturers to coordinate and facilitate efforts to produce critically needed items including hand sanitizers, surgical gowns, and masks. That includes hosting weekly collaboration calls to provide manufacturers a forum to identify needs, available resources, and opportunities to partner. Business advisors from MMEC have provided additional support by helping source materials.
“We’re thrilled that BCBSMT has stepped up in a major way to assist Montana manufacturers who are using their resources, facilities and ingenuity to produce masks for health care workers,” MMEC Director Paddy Fleming said. “The funding from BCBS will recognize the efforts by two companies that recognized their potential to produce these masks, and immediately devoted time, effort and materials to help their communities. We also hope it will inspire others to join in, so the work can continue and grow.”
The Montana Chamber of Commerce has a 501(c)3 established to accept additional contributions toward the effort. Manufacturers interested in joining the MMEC collaboration calls can visit the Coronavirus Response web page for updates. If organizations have resources or expertise to contribute toward the production of critical supplies, MMEC can help make connections with some of the existing efforts.
BCBSMT’s $10,000 donation to this effort is in addition to the $1 million already contributed to the COVID-19 response throughout Montana. The COVID-19 Community Collaboration Fund, administered by BCBSMT, is delivering $400,000 to organizations that provide community-based social services, $300,000 to groups that bolster health care providers and access to care, and $100,000 each to nonprofits that reinforce food security, child care, and senior care.
BCBSMT has a long history of partnering with local organizations to address the most pressing issues that impact Montana communities. As the state’s largest and longest-standing customer-owned health insurer, BCBSMT annually commits nearly $1 million in financial support to address a broad range of social determinants of health that impact community health and well-being and the cost of health care.
About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana (BCBSMT) is a division of Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company and Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. BCBSMT is the largest and longest-standing statewide, customer-owned health insurer and full-service health benefits administrator in Montana. BCBSMT has provided high-quality health insurance plans and administrative services to Montanans for 80 years. BCBSMT’s purpose is to stand with its members in sickness and in health.
About the Montana Manufacturing Extension Center
The Montana Manufacturing Extension Center is a statewide manufacturing outreach and assistance center staffed by full-time professionals with extensive experience in manufacturing and business in a variety of industries. MMEC serves the manufacturers of Montana by helping them assess and improve their manufacturing operations, providing trainings and workforce development, and leveraging research and technological developments at Montana State University to keep manufacturing competitive in the state. MMEC is housed in the Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering at Montana State University in Bozeman, with remote offices in Billings, Missoula, Kalispell, and Great Falls. Our expertise includes staff with decades of combined experience in manufacturing.