U.S. Factories Pop Up To Make Medical Gloves, Spurred By Pandemic

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Rising from a muddy field on the outskirts of the small town of Fayette. Alabama is a bricks-and-mortar symbol of the COVID pandemic, A new glove factory. When completed in 2024, the complex, owned by Japan’s SHOWA Glove Co, will produce about 3 billion medical-grade nitrile gloves. A year from its dozen massive new, five-story-tall, automated assembly lines.

Demand for gloves spiked early in the pandemic, spotlighting a glaring weakness in the U.S. supply chain for many medical safety equipments. Most of it comes from factories in Asia. SHOWA was expanding a small, decades-old glove factory in Fayette. They originally built this to make old-style latex gloves when the pandemic struck, seeing an opening for a revival of larger-scale U.S. glove manufacturing. As the government reconsidered the wisdom of heavily relying on foreign sources. Thereafter, the company tripled the size of its expansion.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has so far committed $572 million to five glove projects. Including $81.3 million for SHOWA, “that will cause domestic capacities that can produce over 600 million nitrile gloves per month,” according to an HHS spokesperson.

Despite that experience, Izhaky and other producers are counting on customers willing to pay some premium for U.S.-made gloves. This as well as federal mandates such as requiring them in government safety stockpiles. A group of glove makers is discussing forming a trade group to push for such mandates and lobbying is underway, company officials said.

Glove making is far more capital intensive than masks, raising the stakes for those building large factories. They modeled modern glove factories on those developed in Asia.Its a reverse of the decades-old pattern of companies in advanced economies developing industries in low-cost regions. Izhaky’s project has 45 U.S. employees and a team of 28 in Malaysia with industry experience.


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