Pivoting to PPE – A Plastic Manufacturer’s Response to the Covid Pandemic: Interview with Jay Baker, President, Jonestown Plastics

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Businesses across industries have felt and reacted to the impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. While many have faced challenges to their traditional business models, some have taken those challenges in stride and turned their responses into opportunities for new growth or strategic pivots.

Jamestown Plastics, a family-owned, New York-based developer of thermoformed products and packaging, is one such company. At the onset of the pandemic, Jamestown was fortunate in its ability to continue operations as an essential service to healthcare organizations that comprise a portion of Jamestown’s client base. However, the organization quickly realized that it could be leveraging its capabilities to do even more for healthcare workers and individuals. The global market for personal protective equipment (PPE) has seen significant growth since the onset of the pandemic, with severe supply shortages creating opportunities for well-positioned companies to enter the space and innovate on existing offerings. Given its existing manufacturing infrastructure and relationships, Jamestown made the move and is now offering an array of face shields while also donating PPE to local hospitals.

To learn more about how Jamestown found an opportunity to solve a critical need during the coronavirus pandemic and its plans for future growth in this new market segment, Medgadget heard from Jay Baker, President of Jamestown Plastics.

Medgadget: Let’s start with a little background on Jamestown Plastics. What services and solutions has the business historically provided and to which industries? What is the size and scale of the organization?

Jay Baker: Jamestown Plastics has been solving tough engineering challenges for our customers since 1958. We are a leader in custom thermoformed products and packaging solutions, serving the healthcare, automotive, consumer goods, and government sectors. Our wide range of products includes: medical device trays; unit dose packaging; exterior and interior automotive components; and various specialty packages. We invented the ‘Clamtainer’ – the world’s first Certified Child Resistant clamshell container – which we also use as part of our DoomBox enclosed mouse trap. All of our products are made in the USA at our two ISO 9001 certified facilities in Brocton, NY and Brownsville, TX.   

Medgadget: When the coronavirus pandemic first began, what was the immediate impact to your business?  How did your clients and your team react to an evolving and unpredictable situation?

Baker: Looking back to early 2020, we started to hear about this new virus that had been identified in China. As the days went on, we learned more about coronavirus and how quickly it could spread. While we did not know how the virus would impact our overall business long-term, our team remained positive and focused on continuing to meet our customers’ needs.

Due to our customers in the healthcare market, our facilities have continued to operate throughout stay-at-home orders and travel restrictions. We are a critical part of their supply chains and they appreciate our ability to handle increased volume as their businesses increase. With all production occurring in the USA, we did not experience any delays in delivering products to our customers.

Medgadget: Where did the idea to refocus your resources towards creating PPE for first responders come from?

Baker: For decades, Jamestown Plastics has been driven by our “Be Bold” philosophy. This drives our team to approach challenges by identifying the ways in which we can fix a problem, rather than focusing on the various ways something cannot be done. This ethos directly leads us to TrueHero Extreme Coverage Face Shields, our patent-pending face shield that we invented and manufactured at warp speed.

Within the various markets we serve—including healthcare— we had never worked in the world of PPE. The PPE market was dominated by the cheapest source of supply, typically from Asia. The coronavirus changed things very quickly! We were approached by several institutions in early March asking if we could help in this crisis. Our team accepted the challenge of approaching this problem with innovation and boldness. They absolutely came through! Within a matter of days, we invented and started manufacturing the best face shield product line in history – TrueHero.

TrueHero Extreme Coverage Face Shield

Medgadget: What forms of PPE are you producing today?

Baker: Today we are producing four styles of TrueHero Extreme Coverage Face Shields. The original TrueHero is our flagship product and is being used by healthcare workers, food processors, salons, and anyone wanting protection in their normal day-to-day lives all over the world. The TrueHero Student is a smaller model created for school-aged children and can be used for smaller adults, as well. We recently introduced the HatTrick, a shield that works with your favorite ball cap and the HardHatter, a shield that fits onto various styles of bump caps and hard hats.

In addition to our TrueHero line, we are also producing the Divide&Conquer table shields to help further protect people in their face-to-face interactions.

Medgadget: As an option alongside medical masks and respirators, how do face shields stack up?

Baker: Not all face shields are the same. However, a well-designed face shield can provide exceptional protection. The CDC and researchers recommend that face shields should extend below the chin and to the ears, and there should be no exposed gap between the forehead and the shield’s headpiece. TrueHero meets these recommendations, providing wearers with several benefits:

  • Covers your mouth, nose, and eyes – three areas through which infection can be transmitted
  • Keeps you from touching your face by providing a physical barrier between your hands and face
  • Facilitates communication by allowing people to see facial expressions and watching lip movement
  • Fully adjustable and customizable
  • Reusable after cleaning and sanitizing

Medgadget: How does distribution work? Have you been primarily focused on local first responders or has the scope of your initiative expanded?

Baker: When the pandemic first hit the United States, we initially focused on the frontline healthcare workers through hospitals, first responder units, and emergency operations centers. Since then, our distribution has expanded to include food processing facilities, salons, and other businesses that deal with face-to-face interactions. We are currently working with many schools that want to incorporate TrueHero in their reopening plans this fall.

Medgadget: What has been the response to the important contribution Jamestown Plastics is making during the pandemic? Any anecdotes you can share?

Baker: The response has been phenomenal! We have heard from many people about how the TrueHero has helped them feel better protected at their jobs. When we started producing TrueHero, we donated to many hospitals around the country, including most of the hospitals in New York City. We received emails and phone calls from healthcare workers at many of those facilities. I specifically recall the nurse who called to thank us for the donation and was quite emotional about having the extra protection.

Some of the feedback that we have received from healthcare workers and others is on our website. A couple of examples include:

  • “My department absolutely loves the [TrueHero]!! I have received non-stop feedback about how much better they are than the ones we originally had, everyone wants one and a lot of people are saying they actually feel protected in the TrueHero Shield.”
  • “The TrueHero Shields proved effective and useful during this crisis. They allow us to feel more confident when providing direct patient care for those in need.”
  • “[The TrueHero shields] are incredible! They cover your entire face including your N95 and head covering keeping us safe and helping to preserve PPE.”

These stories are what keep us going. Our team feels blessed that we have been able to help the people that have fearlessly helped so many others during this crisis.

Medgadget: What does the pivot mean for Jamestown Plastics’ current and future plans? Has the organization completely refocused on creating PPE or are you still providing your historical services and solutions?

Baker: Jamestown Plastics has a 62-year history of serving our customers. We plan to continue working with these and other new customers for at least the next 62 years! However, the introduction of TrueHero has allowed us to create another business within our organization specifically focused on PPE. We are in this business for the long-term. We believe we have a superior product to what has historically been available and look forward to the continued expansion of the TrueHero family of products!

Link: Jamestown Plastics…





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