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Indiana Companies Ramp Up Production To Fight COVID-19


(Adam Pinsker, WFIU/WTIU News)

Two large companies have been chugging away, while a good chunk of the economy has been shuttered across the Hoosier State since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

General Motors is using a vacant building at its Kokomo manufacturing facility to produce ventilators.

GM Ventilators
A worker at the General Motors plant in Kokomo assembles a ventilator.

“In 11 days we took a 4 floor building, if you include the basement, and transformed if from a carpeted office facility to a high tech production facility for critical care ventilators,” Communications Manager for Manufacturing and Labor Stephanie Jentgen said.

GM employees who were indefinitely furloughed, were offered the chance to come back, and some temporary workers were also hired on.

GM teamed up with Seattle based Ventec Life Systems, a company that manufactures ventilators.

“We took their training protocols, and converted them to be able to train people, a large number of people very quickly to be able to make these very complicated pieces,” Jentgen said.

The government awarded GM a contract to produce 30,000 ventilators by August.

The Kokomo facility got to work right away, drawing praise last month from President Trump.

“Following our use of the Defense Production Act, GM announced that its first ventilators come off the line in Kokomo Indiana, great place,” The President said during a Rose Garden press conference.

GM Executives
GM executives tour a plant in Kokomo, Indiana that has been converted to make ventilators.

Vice President Pence got a first hand look this week at the new ventilator production line when he dropped by the Kokomo facility.

GM isn’t the only company with operations in the Hoosier state that is helping out in the fight against Covid-19.  Hillrom is producing ICU beds at its Batesville plant.

“Hospitals in the US, the world over are grappling with an influx of patients for all kinds of reasons,” Vice President For Corporate Communications Howard Karesh said.

The Batesville plant hired an additional 200 workers to help with the production increase.

“We’re doing everything we can, in the Batesville case at least to manufacture ICU and Medsearch hospital beds for our customers, just as fast as we can make them,” Karesh said.

Although GM and Hillrom are ramping up production for the sole purpose of responding to the catastrophic pandemic, both companies see a silver lining in being able to help make an impact. 

“Each of these ventilators has the potential to save four people, so every ventilator we can get off that line and into the hands of someone who needs it, is critically important,” Jentgen said.

For the latest news and resources about COVID-19, bookmark our Coronavirus In Indiana page here.

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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