Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Utah Businesses Shift Production To Meet Needs During Coronavirus Pandemic

Photo of a man in a red jacket wearing a mask and working
Courtesy of SugarHouse Industries
SugarHouse Industries usually produces awnings, but now they have started making face masks to send to clinics during the coronavirus pandemic.

Companies across Utah have been suspending their normal operations due to the coronavirus outbreak. However, some businesses, like Ogden’s Own and Sugarhouse Industries, have shifted their production to meet the growing demand for gloves and masks and even things like sanitizer. 

Ogden’s Own is the second largest distillery in the state. They produce vodka and different flavors of whiskey but now they have pivoted to making hand sanitizer.

On March 18, the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau removed certain restrictions that blocked distilleries from making hand sanitizer. Two days later, the Ogden-based company started making it and has made more than 4,000 liters. 

Even though Ogden’s Own is selling the product, its CEO Steven Conlin said they are not keeping the profit. Instead, the company announced they are donating all the money they make in March and April to the food and beverage industry in the Salt Lake Valley.

Conlin said they are still producing alcohol because there is a demand, but to meet that demand and make sanitizer, employees have to work more. 

“The Utah [Alcohol Beverage Control] is still open for spirit sales,” he said. “We still have orders from them coming in. And so we were operating pretty much just as normal. Now we feel obligated to be working 10, 12, 14 hours a day to meet the need.” 

In Salt Lake City, SugarHouse Industries is using canvas materials to make face protection. Under normal circumstances, they would be producing awnings, boat covers and canvas products. 

The company, which generally makes custom made products, is now mass-producing one or two items. The president of the company, Mike Peterson, said when things slowed down, he had concerns about employee layoffs. 

“To think of having to send people home early, to start cutting hours, to see people start struggling financially was a big stress for me,” Peterson said. “And so finding a product that we could start making, that was a big relief.”

They are currently selling their products to places like clinics, medical companies and senior centers to cover the costs of making them.

Peterson said he hopes more businesses consider pivoting production to meet the demands of coronavirus.

Jessica Lowell is KUER’s news intern. Follow her on Twitter @Jess_Lowell

KUER is listener-supported public radio. Support this work by making a donation today.