Here’s a great story about two dads and a civic commitment that is helping countless people.
It starts last year near Ft. Worth, Texas, where John Bielamowicz and David Baillargeon wanted to help acquire personal protective equipment (PPE) for local hospitals but found woefully few U.S. based suppliers.
Limited supplies were forcing healthcare workers and first responders to reuse N95 respirators or other masks imported from around the world.
“We asked ourselves, why are we relying on other countries to provide this extremely crucial PPE?” Baillargeon told Dallas Innovates magazine. “Why aren’t we manufacturing enough PPE here in the USA to protect and provide dependability should this continue and/or happen again?”
Baillargeon and Bielamowicz decided to invest their life savings to buy machinery and materials and build from scratch a factory that makes certified N95 masks, the kind that are hardest to find.
But their new venture, United States Mask, struggled to compete on price with companies in China. Dr. Michael Burgess, who represents the Ft. Worth area in Congress, read about the company and its story and went for a visit. He told me when I met with him yesterday that he was appalled when he learned the company was disqualified from bidding on an order of 100,000 masks from the government in Tarrant County, where the factory is located.
But media attention changed all that. “In three days, life in a new Fort Worth mask company shifted from no business to complete sellout,” The Dallas Morning News reported, as the company sold its entire inventory of more than a quarter-million masks.
They are massively increasing production and have implemented efficiencies that make their masks price competitive with China. (When you go to the United States Mask website, you can leave your email address to be notified when stock is replenished.)
“Americans care where important things like N95 masks come from. America, we heard you. Be patient with us. This is a team thing. We’re going to be there for you. We’re doing this,” Bielamowicz said.
But here’s the best part, as Dr. Burgess explained.
United States Mask was born from the co-founders’ personal experiences of gratitude to their local medical community, recounted here:
“A few years ago, Bielamowicz’s son, Matthew, was born with a diaphragmatic hernia, a late-term defect that meant the diaphragm didn’t form properly while the baby was in utero. What followed was two open surgeries at nine days old and weeks in Parkland’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
“‘We brought them a sick infant, and they sent us home with our son,’ Bielamowicz said. ‘When we walked out of that hospital, we left with a gift far greater than anything I knew I could repay.’
“Though Matthew is now prospering, Bielamowicz says he couldn’t bear the thought of local healthcare workers like those who helped his son suffering from a lack of PPE.
“‘To put it bluntly, American first responders and those on the front lines should not be reliant on outsourced products from other countries for their safety,’ he said.”
The other partner, David Baillargeon, was awaiting the arrival of his first son last summer, and his wife was receiving special care during the height of the Covid lockdowns. He wanted to help the doctors and nurses who were helping his family.
What a great story of American spirit, innovation, and success! Patients win. Health care workers win. America wins.
Thanks to Dr. Burgess, a member of Congress for nearly 20 years who also co-chairs the Doctors’ Caucus, for sharing this great story.