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Clinton workers help make medical gowns for those on frontline of coronavirus pandemic

Turning from automotive materials to medical gowns is helping a Clinton plant keep workers employed while helping with the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic.
Published: Aug. 11, 2020 at 6:49 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 11, 2020 at 11:04 PM EDT
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CLINTON, Tenn. (WVLT) - Turning from automotive materials to medical gowns is helping a Clinton plant keep workers employed while helping with the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic. Special lamination of thin material is helping create a million medical gowns for doctors and nurses each month at the Shawmut plant in East Tennessee, according to CEO James Wyner.

Wyner explained the special covering for gowns and the assembly of various thin layers is what helps protect healthcare workers who wear them. “A sneeze, a cough, any of those things, it keeps it from penetrating and landing on somebody’s clothes and skin.”

Wyner took the reins of the Shawmut company now from his father, Justin, who remains as chairman of the Boston-based company. The elder Wyner remembers as a child seeing how the textile industry worked, and how it could adapt when the nation went to war. “In World War I we changed and made puttees, those funny looking bindings that went around all soldiers’ legs. And army blankets. In WWII, we made blankets and we made field jackets, and we made bomb parachutes.”

The making of the material for medical gowns in Clinton is keeping everyone employed now, as demand for auto materials returns while the plant fulfills its promises to fill medical needs. East Tennessee native Curtis Heatherly said of the adaptions in 2020, “It was really impressive to me to be able to see everything moving so smoothly and so quickly.” He described the lamination process as a specialized one requiring heat and careful calibration of large machinery. He was relieved to see the company retaining workers and even needing a few more lately. “It’s very important to me. You get close to the people in the plant.”

Chairman Wyner said he takes pride in what his family-owned business can accomplish, even in challenging times. “We have a culture where our employees are all part of the family. And because we’re only responsible to ourselves, we can do what is right and look at the long haul and not worry about the price of our stock tomorrow.”

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