JACKSON CENTER — Airstream Inc., maker of the iconic “silver bullet” fleet of Airstream travel trailers and best-in-class touring coaches, has taken steps to utilize the company’s resources and workforce to help “flatten the curve” while production is temporarily suspended during the state’s “stay-at-home” mandate.
“Our founder, Wally Byam, lived by a creed that continues to guide our nearly-90-year-old company,” said Bob Wheeler, Airstream president and CEO. “Wally believed that promoting goodwill was an essential component of the Airstream business. Locally, that means doing everything we can to mobilize against this crisis.”
When Ohio health care provider Wilson Health established a mobile testing facility, Airstream made several Nest travel trailers available for use by staff. The travel trailers are available for staff to relax, recharge, and stay warm while on shift.
“Like everyone, Airstream is looking for ways to do what we can to curb the spread of the coronavirus,” said Wheeler. “One of the best defenses seems to be testing. These are local heroes, and we’re doing what we can to help those doing the testing stay warm and healthy.”
Additionally, officials in Shelby County and Jackson Center, Ohio – home of Airstream’s production facilities and corporate headquarters – reached out to the company for assistance. Jackson Center Chief of Police, Chuck Wirick along with the Jackson Center Mayor, Scott Klopfenstein and the Shelby County Sheriff, John Lenhart, inquired as to whether Airstream could produce certain personal protective equipment (PPE) during the shutdown.
“This situation calls for creative solutions, and we’ve tapped some of our workforce to contribute to the effort,” said Wheeler. “I’m happy to say they’re more than up to the task at hand.”
Instead of producing curtains or cushions for travel trailers as they roll off the line, associates in Airstream’s sewing department are now working from home assembling safety masks and protective gowns that can be distributed throughout Shelby County. While the materials necessary to produce these supplies are not typically stocked and used by Airstream, the necessary components were quickly procured. The team estimates they can produce over 1,200 masks and 50-60 isolation gowns by the end of this week. The team is also working on special headbands with buttons sewn on so medical staff have the option of looping their mask straps to take pressure off their ears.
“It just seemed like the natural thing to do. We all have a responsibility to help flatten the curve and this is our way to help,” said Christine McKenzie, Airstream’s executive administrative assistant to the president.
McKenzie spearheaded the effort and will not only help manufacture these masks but will also collect the masks and deliver them to Steve Tostrick, health commissioner at the Sidney-Shelby County Health Department. From there the masks will be distributed to local police departments, fire stations, local hospitals, long-term care facilities, and anywhere else locally where protective masks are required. The isolation gowns manufactured by Airstream will be used by the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office staff during inmate transportation to Dayton for trial, as well as by deputies who have to enter homes during the crisis.
“We’re deeply appreciative of Airstream for stepping up to help protect the front-line men and women in Shelby County during this time of emergency,” said Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart. “Airstream is an integral part of our Shelby County community, and this is truly a community effort.”
“I’ve always said that Airstream couldn’t ask for a better location than Shelby County, Ohio,” said Wheeler. “Our workforce is really a family, and we have associates who come from all across west-central Ohio. We’re eager to do our part in this crisis.”