By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily
Manufacturers in and around Sheridan will receive $48,000 from a Wyoming Business Council program to purchase materials needed to produce medical gowns and face masks.
During a WBC meeting April 28, the council approved Sheridan’s request for a federal grant from a rarely used category of Community Development Block Grant to supply the Wyoming Technology Coronavirus Coalition (WTCC) and WyoMakers with raw materials needed to produce personal protective equipment (PPE).
The equipment will be distributed to Wyoming’s emergency management services, a council spokesperson said.
“This category of Community Development Block Grant — imminent threat or urgent need — is not used very often,” said Julie Kozlowski, the WBC Community Development director. “It usually applies to natural disasters.”
Earlier in April, the WBC approved a $250,000 grant for the Town of Mills under the same category to fund the manufacture of hand sanitizer by a collective of Wyoming distillers.
Prior to COVID-19, Kozlowski said the last time she could remember the council approving an imminent threat grant was for flooding in northern Wyoming about a decade ago.
“What impressed me most about this application is the team spirit of the applicants,” Kozlowski said. “It’s heartwarming to see business owners and individuals want to do something so selflessly for the cause.”
While the grant is being awarded to the city of Sheridan, the funds are intended for WTCC and WyoMakers.
Founded March 17, the WTCC was created as an effort to coordinate technological efforts to help with the state’s response to the pandemic.
“The idea is not to duplicate work efforts and solutions, but to use the power of our collective minds to share ideas, initiatives, and resources,” WTCC founder Eric Trowbridge said in a news release.
WyoMakers is a group of people from around the state who manufacture items at various locations. Members of the group manufactured and delivered more than 1,000 pieces of PPE prior to receiving the grant, a WBC news release reported. With funding from the block grant, the group plans to sew about 1,000 masks per week and 30,000 gowns during the next three months.
The PPEs produced with funds from the grant will be distributed to county emergency management teams as needed and free of charge, Kozlowski said.
“We didn’t set a particular timeline,” she explained. “Many of the applicants were manufacturing on their own dime already. It’s everyone’s assumption it will happen as quickly as possible.”