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AFRL’s Small Business office connects hospitals, medical facilities in need of protective gear with able manufacturing firms

  • Published
  • By Nicole Miller
  • Air Force Research Laboratory Small Business Office

ROME, N.Y. – Amid the coronavirus outbreak and the shutdown of non-essential businesses, critical supply needs have arisen. When Michael Graniero from the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Small Business office, learned about a Connecticut hospital in desperate need of face shields, he leveraged his insight and connections to help identify a solution.

Without a manufacturing line, hospitals in New York and Connecticut risked running out of critical protective gear. If the pandemic depleted their existing stock, healthcare workers, who typically wear these plastic face shields over their hospital-grade facemasks, would lack this additional protection, just when they need it the most.

Graniero, who learned of the supply issue via an email, immediately began inquiring with manufacturing firms to see if they had additional capacity and were willing to assemble the face shields.

Through his government and industry contacts, he referred several resources to the hospital. Graniero also contacted state and federal employees along with nonprofit organizations including the New York State Technology Enterprise Corporation, New York State Manufacturing Extension Partnership, Griffiss Institute, Empire State Development, Oneida County Government and the National Security Innovation Network. The response he received was overwhelming.

“All were eager to help and willing to spread the word,” Graniero said. Several firms even offered to purchase the raw materials and manufacture the entire shield. One agency offered building space to set up an assembly line, he said.

As Graniero facilitated these connections, a New York medical facility, Hospice & Palliative Care Inc., contacted him saying they also needed critical supplies. After he introduced them to several businesses, the facility purchased face shields from a 3D-printing company in Youngstown, Ohio. 

Graniero characterizes the response and support he received from government and industry in both cases as “inspirational.” Although this type of request was beyond his typical reach and outside of normal support activities, he and his team gladly assisted the medical community.

“Especially in this time of great need, we all must support others and help where we can.”