Hardwire Earns $50M Fed Contract To Produce Millions Of Face Shields

Hardwire Earns $50M Fed Contract To Produce Millions Of Face Shields
Employees are pictured producing the face shields in Hardware’s Pocomoke plant. Submitted Photos

POCOMOKE –   Hardwire LLC has agreed to manufacture five million face shields for those battling COVID-19 through a contract with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.Hardwire

Rep. Andy Harris announced the award of up to $50 million in federal contracts to Pocomoke’s Hardwire LLC last week. The contract comes just a month after Hardwire, known for its design and manufacture of armor for military vehicles, worked with medical professionals at Atlantic General Hospital to develop a face shield to help health care workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s work our company’s built for — crisis,” said George Tunis, Hardwire’s CEO.

Harris announced last Thursday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was awarding millions in federal contracts to Hardwire for the company’s reusable face shields.

“I am glad that FEMA made the decision to source some of the production of face shields to use during this crisis to Hardwire LLC, here in Worcester County in the First District of Maryland,” Harris said in a statement. “My office has been working with FEMA to make this happen, since high quality PPE (personal protection equipment) is essential in this crisis, and bringing back PPE production on-shore is important. With this contract, Hardwire is providing much-needed local jobs. Hopefully, in their future purchases, the state of Maryland will also turn to Hardwire as a supplier of face shields as well.”

The first piece of the contract has Hardwire sending 800,000 shields to New Jersey by the end of next week.

“We’ll be producing the majority of the need for the state of New Jersey, which is an honor and a crushing responsibility,” Tunis said.

According to Tunis, Hardwire’s acquisition of the federal contracts will put 100 people—including laid-off restaurant industry employees and college students—back to work. His company is now making 500,000 face shields a week.

“What started as a few for AGH has turned into 500,000 a week,” Tunis said.

In March, Hardwire worked with doctors and nurses at the Berlin hospital to design and test face shields. Tunis didn’t want to sit idle while medical professionals were lacking equipment to protect them from COVID-19.

“Necessity is the mother of invention,” he said. “This was needed for AGH and PRMC.”

Tunis said that with the input from AGH medical personnel, his company was able to improve its initial prototype. The face shield Hardwire is manufacturing today is reusable, weighs only two ounces, is compatible with other PPE and does not fog up.

“Michael Franklin’s team (at AGH) was instrumental in helping us design this,” Tunis said.

Since Hardwire started producing face shields, Tunis estimates that the company has provided 100,000 each to the states of Maryland and Delaware. He said Hardwire had distributed 150,000 others to various other local agencies, including nursing homes. The company is receiving website orders for the face shields every day.

“We’ve got everybody from nursing homes to beauty parlors in south Florida,” he said.

He’s thrilled that the shields are helping “human beings out doing their jobs.”

The shields have proven popular because, while they can be worn with other PPE, they themselves meet CDC guidelines.

“I wear one every day,” Tunis said. “You can see everybody’s face and you can breathe easy. You don’t feel claustrophobic.”

Working in the manufacturing industry, he’s spent years wearing a mask at work.

“We’ve always said the time under the mask is when you’re earning your money,” he said. “I wish I’d had one of these years ago.”

At Hardwire, employees are wearing face shields as they manufacture face shields. For the first time, the company’s workers are part of the fight they’re outfitting clients for.

“That’s the first time this has happened to us,” Tunis said, adding that the virus could attack anyone. “It’s sort of a scary adversary.”

Nevertheless, with enhanced cleaning practices and careful procedures, Tunis is hiring people every day to ensure the company can manufacture enough shields to meet demand. He’s added work stations and assembly points by converting space previously used for the manufacture of transportation armor.

“The parking lot is 100% full,” he said, adding that a local school was letting the company use some of its parking space. “I didn’t think we’d run out of parking. In the middle of a pandemic it was the furthest thing from my mind.”

Tunis says that aside from global health concerns, he’s enjoying the challenge of creating a valuable product. He’s thrilled that the risk he took in developing something new and adding $1 million in equipment to produce it has paid off.

“It was one of the largest financial risks I’ve ever taken so the FEMA contract is important to us,” he said.

Tunis praised Harris and his staff for helping Hardwire through the federal contract process.

“He was able to help us navigate those waters,” Tunis said.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.