Alabama Port City businesses helping each other during pandemic

Alabama Port City businesses helping each other during pandemic
Craig Savage with Austal USA gives a box of tension bands for face masks to Dr. Benjamin Estrada, a pediatric infectious disease specialist with USA Health on April 22, 2020 at Strada Patient Care Center in Mobile. The bands are used to make fabric masks fit better. (Casandra Andrews / USA Health)

When the University of South Alabama discovered USA Health and other health care providers faced a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) during the initial outbreak of COVID-19, the university reached out to the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce and area businesses for help.

“They found out what PPE they might need,” said David Rodgers, vice president of Economic Development at the Mobile chamber. “Realizing our industrial partners could 3D-print some of these products, they relayed that back to them.”

Those partners include Austal USA, Airbus Alabama and Calagaz Printing, who quickly jumped into action adapting their equipment to print face shields, masks and accessories and then delivering it to health care workers and facilities around the Gulf Coast.

“It really shows how our industrial partners are stepping up during a time of crisis,” Rodgers said. “We’re fortunate to be in a progressive community with the manufacturing sectors and the industrial sectors we have. It’s great to see the partnerships that are coming out of this. Across industry sectors, businesses are working together. They’re all jumping in together. I’m fortunate to be able to help move this forward.”

Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce connecting needs with resources from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The chamber has been a key ingredient in the collaboration. Staff quickly shifted work priorities in March, calling all 2,000 members to connect needs with resources.

“We’ve really had to revamp our entire platform of work,” Rodgers said. “A lot of it has been around information.”

Collecting and sharing information has become the chamber’s most valuable resource. The chamber created a special page on its website dedicated to helping businesses, especially restaurants and those deemed “nonessential” during the statewide quarantine, survive the pandemic. Staff are holding weekly conference calls and sending more frequent emails to members.

“Communication is key,” Rodgers said. “Folks are looking for the information. Businesses are looking for that. Our members are looking for that. That has been one of our most vital assets.”

Rodgers adds that the heightened level of communication and collaboration will continue after the pandemic.

“This is a playbook,” Rodgers said. “This is something that we can foster and continue to work on so that we’re not having to wait for another crisis to come in. You’re seeing so many of the business community find ways to promote and help everybody to get this economy back on track locally. It’s been a blessing a watch.”

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