New Balance switches to face mask production
by Jill Harmacinski, Eagle Tribune
Face masks for health care workers will now be produced at the city's New Balance factory as the footwear maker shifts to making protective equipment to help fight the coronavirus pandemic. A shortage of face masks, as well as personal protective equipment, has been reported by hospital workers and first responders throughout Massachusetts, New England and the country. The New Balance factory and outlet store at 5 So. Union St. had closed earlier in March due to concerns over the coronavirus, commonly known as COVID-19, which can cause intense respiratory symptoms and possible death. New Balance this weekend announced the company "has engaged a portion of its skilled and innovative U.S. manufacturing workforce to develop face masks to address the significant demand for these supplies. We are producing prototypes for face masks in our Lawrence manufacturing facility and hope to scale production using our other New England factories soon." New Balance has been manufacturing sports footwear in America since 1906. The Lawrence factory is located in the former Ayer Mill at South Union and Merrimack streets. That factory was originally opened in 1911 by William Wood, president of the American Woolen Company. It was considered one of the largest factories in the world and employed 3,500 mill hands, according to city historical records. It was unclear Monday how many employees will be working in the Lawrence factory on the mask project. New Balance is one of the largest employers in the city. Gov. Charlie Baker mentioned New Balance during a press conference Monday as he described ways of "harnessing manufacturing" in Massachusetts. Baker said he is always impressed with local businesses' ingenuity and creativity. And he lauded businesses "for taking this in stride and coming up with solutions."