Repurposed: New Balance footwear making thousands of masks
By Jill Harmacinski, Eagle Tribune
Workers at the city's New Balance footwear factory will be producing tens of thousands of protective masks as the fight against the coronavirus continues. The factory at 5 S. Union St. normally manufactures sneakers. However, with personal protective equipment (PPE) in high demand, New Balance "produced it's first face mask prototype less than a week ago," officials announced Thursday. "By mid-April, our goal is to make up to 100,000 units weekly at our Lawrence, Mass. and Norridgewock, Maine factories combined," officials said. The New Balance factory and outlet store had closed in March due to concerns over the new coronavirus, commonly known as COVID-19, which can cause intense respiratory symptoms and possible death. 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. Now, New Balance research and development teams are also "responding to calls for other PPE, including gowns and foot coverings, among other items. ...This includes working toward prototypes and exploring collaborative opportunities that optimize our U.S.-based 3D printing capabilities." Officials, in a statement, stressed this "is not a commercial opportunity" and that the company is pursuing "break-even pricing" and donations for the face mask production.