The business minds behind a medical mask manufacturing site in Kelowna, B.C., are hoping to be the leading edge of a made-in-Canada movement.
Sometime soon, Breathe Medical Manufacturing Ltd., will be producing 20 million masks a month at its 30,000-square foot facility in the Central Okanagan.
Construction of the building is finished, and, according to company president Warren Jones, the first orders of medical masks will be shipped in the first week of June.
According to Jones, the company will be hiring 30 people at first, and could hire up to 80 employees. The goal, he said, will be to produce up to 40 million masks a month.
“We’ve always had that ambition to start this, and as soon as COVID-19 came into being, we wanted to make sure Canada had the supplies they need.”
Jones claims Breathe’s masks will be safe, adding the company will be instituting safety measures well beyond what’s required.
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And, just as importantly, they’ll be made in Canada, which means no off-shore reliance.
“We’re going to surpass all of that with our testing and the way we’re building our clean rooms and so on,” Jones said.
“It’s going to be way above anybody else that’s out there.”
In time, medical experts predict the coronavirus will eventually be tamped down, though more waves are forecast.
That said, are medical masks a fad? Jones said no, as the company’s outlook is long-term, not short-term.
“When the virus disappears, all nations are still going to want their safe inventory,” he said. “But what did we do before? Doctors, hospitals, dentists, they all needed masks.
“So there’s always been a demand … not as severe as today, but certainly it’s never going to go away.”
In fact, Jones said “I can pretty much say for sure that why would they buy it from China, or anywhere else, when they can get it right here, made in Canada and certified and tested. It’s the logical process.”
In regards to cost, Jones also said Breathe will have competitive pricing, but “the quality is what we’re really selling.”
Hailing from Chilliwack, Jones said Kelowna was chosen because it already has a long history of manufacturing throughout the region.
“It’s a great location,” he said, stating mayor Colin Basran and other businesses have been cooperative.
“Everybody’s bought in because they know the need for Canada and they want to be part of it.”
Jones added “I don’t want to use Canada first like Mr. Trump does with America, but one of our slogans is Canada first. We want to look after people right now.”
He said Breathe has already been contacted by other countries, but “right now, it’s supplying Canadians. As a business, we can’t cut our neck off and say we won’t ship anywhere else, but right now, it’s to support Canadians, get the stockpile back up and then we’ll be entertaining all other types of options.”
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