Medical mask suppliers Moldex-Metric Inc. and Medicom Group are expanding production in the U.S. to handle increased demand from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The companies join other manufacturers of N95 masks that are investing in additional capacity.
Moldex-Metric will spend more than $25 million to add N95 mask production at a new site in Lebanon, Tenn., officials said in a news release. Moldex-Metric is a protective equipment maker based in Culver City, Calif.
In Lebanon, Moldex-Metric will retrofit an exiting building. The expansion is expected to create more than 200 new jobs in the next three years. The firm also will build a distribution center on the 21-acre site.
Moldex-Metric worked with the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development on the project. The firm is the second-largest maker of N95 masks in North America and has been making similar products for almost 40 years, officials said.
"Having conducted an exhaustive search for a suitable site … Tennessee provided unique advantages to accomplish our expansion plans," President and CEO Mark Magidson said in the release. "It quickly became clear that Tennessee was the best location for our facility."
He added that, in addition to expanding capacity and adding a distribution facility, the location will place Moldex-Metric's products closer to many of its customers.
Expanding in Georgia
Montreal-based Medicom will triple the size of its existing production in Augusta, Ga., with a new factory there, officials said in a news release. The firm's Augusta site operates as United Medical Enterprise. Medicom is a global supplier of surgical and respiratory masks.
The new plant will have surgical and N95-type mask production equipment with updated technology, officials said. Several new machines are already on site and more are due to arrive in the coming weeks, they added in early October.
"Diversified supply has been a long-term strategy for Medicom," Guillaume Laverdure, president and global chief operating officer, said in the release. "We are happy to announce that we will be quadrupling our production output in the U.S. to supply products that will help protect health care professionals for years to come."
He added that the firm chose to remain in Augusta because it has many long-term employees who have years of mask manufacturing expertise there.
In addition to the new U.S. site, Medicom this year has opened mask plants in Canada, the United Kingdom and Singapore and has added a second plant in France. The firm also has added capacity at established plants in France, China and Taiwan. Products made by Medicom include face masks, medical gowns and other protective apparel.
Others also expanding
Global manufacturers Honeywell Inc. and 3M also both have increased production of N95 masks since the pandemic hit. Five of the six main components of 3M's N95 mask use some type of plastic. Its straps are made from thermoplastic elastomers, the nose foam is polyurethane and the filter is polypropylene fiber. The mask's shell and cover both are made of polyester.