On Monday, the Cullman City Council will be voting on providing a loan to HomTex so the manufacturer can purchase equipment that will allow it to begin making disposable face masks. The council members are certain to approve the measure, and they should.
The agreement would have the city make a loan to the Cullman Industrial Development Board, which would then make the money available to HomTex to purchase and install new equipment necessary for the production of disposable surgical masks to be used in the fight against COVID-19. The loan will be in the amount of $1.5 million at a 2.2 percent annual interest rate.
First, the council has the legal authority to make the loan. The state Constitution gives the city the power to fund economic development that will have a positive impact on the community. This definitely fits that definition.
Not only is it good business - the face masks and personal protection equipment in general are in high demand - it’s good for business. HomTex, a locally grown company that started in Cullman in 1987, has been making the masks available to other Cullman industries first. This helps other companies keep employees working, safely.
Second, when Alabama’s unemployment has shot up to more than 80,000 people filing for unemployment in one week, with 1,400 of them from Cullman County, an industry that’s going to put 80-120 people to work is definitely needed.
The loan is needed because in the competitive market for PPE manufacturing equipment, the company needs to be able to present its financial package to the sellers of the equipment or risk losing the opportunity to purchase.
HomTex has already shown its commitment to this venture. In one week, the company was able to turn its Cullman plant from manufacturing bedding to face masks. That’s a remarkable feat. The company was able to make the change so quickly because of its ties to suppliers and experience in the sewing industry.
On Tuesday, the company began producing reusable filtration masks that they hope to get the Food and Drug Administration to approve for use in hospitals. HomeTex said they can produce 100,000 of these masks per week.
With the additional equipment, the company will be able to produce an additional 400 million disposable masks.
Which brings us to our final point. The city council should approve the loan because of the public health risk of COVID-19. Along with social distancing, masks provide an additional layer of protection against the new coronavirus. Eventually, we all need to get back to work. If the virus is still active, masks help us to do that while staying healthy.
It’s a sound investment.