U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Dot gov

Official websites use
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Https

Secure websites use HTTPS
A lock () or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Breadcrumb

  1. Home
  2. News
  3. Blog

Was this page helpful?

Manufacturing Month 2021: Celebrating Resilient U.S. Manufacturers Like Custom Contract Furnishings in High Point, North Carolina


Many U.S. manufacturers responded to the pandemic’s challenges. Manufacturing Day 2021 events across the country, which are happening throughout the month of October, are celebrating America’s manufacturing resilience during this difficult time. Events like in-person or virtual tours are helping community members see these modern, high-tech manufacturing facilities that have survived, and in some cases thrived, and learn about the many opportunities for well-paying jobs.

Each manufacturer has a unique pandemic story — many pivoted from their normal operations to meet the nation’s needs for masks, medical devices and other items to fight the pandemic. Here’s one small manufacturer’s pandemic story.

A high point for the nation’s furniture-making industry
High Point, North Carolina, has been a center of U.S. furniture manufacturing for more than a hundred years. Custom Contract Furnishings (CCF) is one of the many furniture manufacturers located near High Point. Established in 1989, CCF makes high-quality upholstered seating for the hospitality, health care and senior living industries. Feature stories on CCF have run in national magazines including Network of Executive Women in Hospitality, Hospitality Design and Boutique Design.

Pivoting from upholstered furniture to masks … and then to surgical gowns
The pandemic hit the hospitality industry hard. CCF saw three months’ worth of orders dry up virtually overnight in March 2020 due to supply chain disruptions and cost increases. In late March 2020, Thomas Hurd from the Simmis Group, a health care business development firm, reached out to CCF Vice President Chris Morris with a problem. Hurd had contacted numerous textile and apparel manufacturers searching for sources of surgical gowns and masks needed by frontline health care workers. Finding none, he turned to CCF, which he had worked with for more than 20 years.

This led Morris to realize that upholstery production was not very different from apparel manufacturing. The company quickly pivoted operations to produce personal protective equipment (PPE) — preserving CCF’s workforce and business during the pandemic. First CCF produced masks through a collective in Hickory, North Carolina, and then transitioned to making surgical gowns, using its existing cut and sew capabilities.

The Manufacturing Extension Partnership helps CCF secure a state contract
The next step for CCF was getting the word out about its new capabilities. That’s when the North Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NCMEP) came into the picture. NCMEP is one of 51 centers in the U.S. and Puerto Rico funded by the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) and part of the MEP National Network™. With emergency funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, MEP centers like NCMEP helped manufacturers across the country respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. CCF is just one of the firms that NCMEP worked with.

Hurd registered CCF with federal and state PPE portals, including one with North Carolina’s Emergency Management Division. NCMEP was helping the division identify and vet manufacturers that could produce much-needed PPE and qualify for state contracts. Follow-up conversations between NCMEP and Morris ultimately led to CCF being awarded a state contract to produce Level 2 isolation gowns. These are the gowns needed by doctors and nurses working in intensive care units.

Moving forward in new directions
CCF implemented a quality management system and achieved its Food and Drug Administration (FDA) registration and listing with the help of NCMEP’s CARES Act funding. It has continued producing isolation gowns and maintaining its FDA registration for this work. Like many manufacturing firms, CCF is moving in new and unexpected directions resulting from its pandemic experience. It’s now pursuing opportunities for expanding production and manufacturing additional surgical gown classifications.

For CCF, the pivot to produce PPE has changed and revitalized the company. The company has even invented a new machine. Morris says, “It has been a pleasure and an honor to work with NCMEP. We are now on the verge of filing for a new patent with the development of a new poly gown press that will keep us competitive with PPE gowns coming from Asia.”

Celebrate MFG Day 2021!
Manufacturing Day 2021 (MFG Day) is a celebration of U.S. know-how and resilience. MFG Day helps the public learn about exciting manufacturing careers in modern, innovative facilities. Join MEP and manufacturers across the country — click here to find a MFG Day event near you and celebrate the resilience of modern U.S. manufacturing!