In the spirit of Easter Egg hunts around America, the editors of Business Pulse decided to hide today’s column way back here on Page 2C. I'm glad you found it.
There's no Golden Egg with money inside so this column will have to serve as the prize. It's not as satisfying as a chocolate bunny, but you do get to catch up on the latest business news and it has fewer calories.
It was a month ago when I reported about Apollo Medical Products opening at the old Aquatech building on Belmont Drive. At the time of my story, Apollo was on the verge of starting production, but had not yet begun.
As a result, many people have asked me a natural next question: Are they up and running yet?
The answer is a triumphant yes! I made a return trip to Apollo on Wednesday to get an update from company owner Kenneth Perry.
Kenneth has been very gracious with his time and he granted me a second tour of his operation – this time with workers in place and medical masks rolling off the line. He is producing about a half million masks a day and has a workforce of 60.
Of those, 45 are permanent workers and 15 are classified as temps. Kenneth explained the permanent workers operate the machines while the temporary workers pretty much stick to packaging.
“We have one pod of 24 machines going right now,” said Kenneth. “We’re still trying to get productivity up to scale and get more efficient in operating the machinery. People are still learning.”
Kenneth says a huge selling point when talking to potential customers is that Apollo masks are manufactured in America right here in McMinnville and nearly 100% of the materials are from America. This not only gives companies pride in buying things Made In America, it also helps avoid any supply chain disasters that might arise from depending on an overseas business.
“Our product is first rate and I haven’t heard anybody complaining about our prices,” said Kenneth. “One thing we’ve already done is we’ve changed the material used for the ear loop to make it more comfortable. It was rubbing some people the wrong way behind the ear, but the new piece is so much softer and better. It doesn’t have that problem.”
Kenneth says his goal was always to sell his masks to medical facilities that have used them long before anyone ever heard of COVID. That’s still the goal, although he has been fielding other inquiries lately.
“I don’t wish COVID to come back in any way, shape or form,” said Kenneth. “But there has been another surge in the Northeast and we’ve been getting calls from up there. A few places are going back to mask mandates.”
Apollo Medical Products is getting its start as our country, as a whole, is struggling to produce PPE supplies. According to an Associated Press analysis, the onset of the pandemic revealed the U.S. was highly dependent on foreign countries for our protective gear.
When China started limited exports so it could keep supplies to fight its own COVID battles, it created a shortage in America, which resulted in skyrocketing prices.
Shriveling domestic production has raised concerns that governments, medical facilities and individuals could again get stuck scrambling for PPE with another COVID uptick.
Kenneth says the next big step is getting his masks approved by the FDA. Then he is going to concentrate on getting the second half of the business up and running. That’s producing disinfectant wipes.
When asked if he has gained a sense of satisfaction in bringing a vacant industrial building back to life, Kenneth said he’s not ready to turn cartwheels just yet.
“I’ll be a little happier when we get all our machines in here and have all four pods up and running,” said Kenneth. “This is just the starting point.”
Kenneth says he looks forward to having a grand opening in May or June so the community can tour the facility and see first-hand the work being done. I find it impressive.
Industrial Development Board executive director Don Alexander finished updating our industrial directory last week and reports Warren County has 4.3% fewer manufacturing jobs than we did when the survey was last conducted in 2020.
There have been some recent job loses with Metal Products Company closing on Garfield Street. It had a reported workforce of 49 in 2020.
Ames Tool has also closed. It had 13 jobs.
But that’s not the big reason industrial jobs are down. That distinction goes to Yorozu, which is a Tier 1 automotive supplier with Nissan and Honda two of its biggest customers. The chip shortage has prevented vehicles from rolling off the assembly line in their usual fashion so Yorozu has adjusted its workforce to compensate.
“They have gone from 1,000 jobs to 650, but they are expecting to pick back up soon,” said Don. “With Yorozu, we’re down 4.3% today. Without Yorozu in the equation, we’re up about 17% so that shows everything else is real positive.”
I hope to get a chance in the coming days to do a more in-depth analysis of the industrial numbers on a company-by-company basis and I’ll convey that information when I have it compiled.
With 3-D printing
I’ve heard about 3-D printing for years but I never witnessed it being done in person until Friday when I stopped by Chad McGee’s workshop to check out his new business.
Chad has started Monkey-Pup Creations and he is using four 3-D printers to create all kinds of plastic mugs and gaming props that he’s selling at craft fairs and on the internet.
“It started with me wanting to get a 3-D printer and because my wife is an art teacher she didn’t oppose that,” said Chad. “It’s grown into this. So far it’s been mostly sales at craft fairs. I did Sip and Saveur last year and was set up at Begonias and that went really well. We launched the website about a month and a half ago and we’re seeing that get some traffic.”
The items are wonderfully unique and hand painted after they come off the 3-D printer. Chad says a mug takes about 15 to 25 hours to print depending on the intricacies of the design. It gives him another outlet to tap into his creativity.
“There was a mug that I made for myself that when I got done with it I thought people would buy this,” said Chad. “It’s probably geared a little bit more toward guys, but it can be for anyone. If you’re looking to get someone a gift and you’re tired of getting them the same old present, something like this would be really neat.”
The 3-D printers work by laying down layers of plastic in the way specified by the computer program. Chad has licenses to sell designs from three different companies.
“The gaming items are really strong sellers,” said Chad. “I played Dungeons and Dragons 30 years ago and it’s still around and still popular. We make dice rollers and other pieces associated with those games.”
Chad has brought WCHS junior Tristan Olsen on board as an apprentice because he’s a good painter. He’s also handling the packaging and shipping when a piece sells online.
Chad learned about Tristan’s skills through their work together at Warren Arts doing set design. Tristan may pursue a career in theater in college and has been accepted to the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in L.A.
Prices for 3-D printed items are as low as $5 for a resin-printed ring, up to $80 for some of the larger items like a wooden staff complete with snake on top.
I tried to talk Chad into becoming a vendor at the Southern Standard’s Marketville, which is set for July at Warren County Fairgrounds. He seems receptive so you might be able to view his products there.
If not, you can check out his Facebook page which is Monkey-Pup Creations or his website, monkeypupcreations.com.
The mall keeps
Three Star Mall has landed in a field of good news lately with a new bakery/ sandwich shop opening along with the VA Clinic. Just when you thought the news couldn’t get any better, J’s Restaurant is offering prime rib with baked potato and salad for just $19.99. Life is happy at 1410 Sparta Street.
To make matters better, the mall now has its own barber shop! I think you have to go back to the days when Fabulous Freds was at the mall to find the last time a barber shop was there. I say that with mild certainty and encourage anyone to correct me if there was a barber shop at the mall more recently than Fabulous Freds.
Eric Ortiz, a seasoned barber with 28 years of experience, has opened Scissor Hands Barbershop at the former location of GNC. For those who may not remember we had a GNC, it’s located across from Ascend.
Eric must be blessed with good karma, or brilliant marketing, because he opened Friday at 9 a.m. and was swamped with customers while I was there talking to him around 11:30 a.m.
“I think I’m going to like this spot,” said Eric while giving kindergartener Jaxon Watts a mullet cut. “Hairstyles are always changing and they’re always coming back. I was around for the original mullet.”
Eric says he will cut anyone’s hair.
“Men, women, children … iguanas,” he said, getting a smile from Jaxon.
When asked how he’s going to keep up with such demand, Eric said he has a hair stylist who is joining him this Monday and another who will be coming on board the following Monday.
All of this amounts to shear excitement at Three Star Mall.
That’s all folks
Thanks for reading this special Easter installment of Business Pulse. I hope you enjoy this meaningful day with family and friends. May all your egg hunts lead to Golden Eggs and may all your business tips be reported by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.