Snapshots: May 2020: Industry Companies Retrofit Manufacturing To Provide Critical Supplies

As the coronavirus spread in March, the demand for personal protective equipment to protect health-care workers spiked, threatening to exhaust available supplies. In response, companies across the promotional products industry stepped up to help fill the critical void. 

Hanes, which does business in the promotional products industry as Hanes/Champion based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is working with a consortium of companies including suppliers Sanmar (whose factory in Tennessee is shown here, in photos by Ryan McGill), Fruit of the Loom and AST Sportswear (part of Bayside Made in America). Together, the consortium worked to produce five to six million masks weekly using HanesBrands’s design and patterns.

“This came together really fast,” said Jeremy Lott, president of Sanmar. “Our first conversation about it was on Thursday, and here on Tuesday, we’re beginning production on a product none of us had made before. It’s a tremendous level of effort. Whatever it takes to get this done, let’s do it right now. While we’re also fighting this challenge to our business that is existential, nothing is more important than this effort as the need is so dire.”

Lott said, “Companies that are friendly competitors in normal times understand how important it is to band together and collectively be much stronger. And more companies are coming onboard. This is a story of an industry coming together. People who have the ability to do so are reaching out to help. This is us answering an urgent humanitarian need and our greatest hope is that they put us out of the mask business very soon with the development of a vaccine.”


Maple Ridge Farms delivered a check for $5,000 to Habitat for Humanity of Wausau on March 5. The Mosinee, Wisconsin, supplier’s donation was the result of a “Give Back” program it started in September 2019. In that program, Maple Ridge Farms offered to donate a percentage of the profits from a specially selected line of gifts to a charitable organization.

Joining Tom Riordan, the supplier’s owner and president, at the check presentation were Andy Witt, CFO and executive vice president; Jodie M. Schillinger, executive vice president, and Shana Gardner, administrative operational support, one of the main architects of the program. Although she didn’t attend the presentation, Molly Neises, national sales executive, was also instrumental to the success of this fundraising program.


AIA Corporation held its second annual Supplier Summit in Chicago in February. The Appleton, Wisconsin-based distributor brought 36 attendees from AIA’s Platinum MVP and the top 12 supplier communities together with AIA leadership in a forum for engaging, educational and collaborative discussion.

Paul Bellantone, CAE, president and CEO of PPAI (pictured on left, with AIA CEO Matt Gresge), was the guest speaker at the AIA Supplier Summit and shared PPAI’s latest research on the forces that will have the greatest impact on the industry, and sought input on what actions the Association should take. He says, “From tariffs and environmental issues to compliance and now viruses, today’s uncertain marketplace demands more and continued collaboration between supplier and distributor partners. These important channel relationships create the foundation of our industry and are critical to member success. I was happy to participate in an event that fosters partnership and focuses on opportunities and the AIA Supplier Summit met the mark. I truly appreciate the learning experience and opportunity to share the PPAI vision.”


In early March, PPAI Business Development Account Manager Connie Brazil visited some of the Association’s neighboring member companies. From PPAI’s Irving, Texas, headquarters, she stopped in at Dallas-based suppliers Radius Display Products and Lorente.


At Radius Display Products, Brazil met with Geoffrey Duncan (pictured), director of sales and marketing. The company was founded by Michelle Stacy in 1977 and offers U.S.-made or sourced products with in-house manufacturing and printing.

Angela Lorente, who has served as president of the company since 2007, gave Brazil a tour of her company. Lorente (pictured, center, with Susan Daproza and Terri Hahn) has been in business since 1981 and has cultivated a family-style environment and interaction with clients.


On March 11, leaders from the Specialty Advertising Association of California (SAAC) and PPAI met with legislators at the California State Capitol in Sacramento, California, for the local Legislative Education and Action Day (L.E.A.D.). The non-partisan event provided a forum for these leaders to convey a powerful message about the value and importance of the promotional products industry in Southern California. Throughout the event, SAAC leaders made essential connections with lawmakers and their staffs who have the potential to influence and shape legislation that can positively affect the industry.

A key message delivered by SAAC leaders focused on the impact that Assembly Bill 5 (AB 5) is having on the industry. Under this bill, a new standard has been established for independent contractors, requiring many to be reclassified as employees covered by minimum wage, overtime, workers’ compensation, unemployment and disability insurance. AB 5’s intent was to protect workers primarily in the gig economy, such as Uber and Lyft drivers, but overlooked the fact that many salespeople willingly and intentionally chose the independent contractor status. Being an independent contractor provides distributors the ability to be their own boss, set their own hours and manage their own book of business without having the overhead and tax implications that come with being a business owner. 



The Upper Midwest Association of Promotional Professionals (UMAPP) held its annual Room Show on March 9 at the Minneapolis Airport Marriott in Bloomington, Minnesota. The event featured 11 exhibitor seminars and an awards ceremony to recognize members’ accomplishments.

At its awards ceremony, the regional association presented Steven Meyer, MAS, (pictured on right) former vice president of customer development/operations at supplier RiteLine, with the UMAPP Hall of Fame Award. Meyer was chosen for his contributions to UMAPP’s success but also for his leadership at PPAI, where he served on the board in 2009-2014 and was its board chair in 2012-2013. In a surprise move by the UMAPP board directors, Sue Selseth, executive director of the association, was also presented with a Hall Of Fame award. It was presented in recognition of the service and dedication she has given to UMAPP over the past 20 years. Scott Hareid with Hareid Marketing was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award. He has volunteered on and chaired numerous committees and executive officer positions at the regional association. He was on the Regional Association Council board and was the RAC delegate to the PPAI Board in 2015.


James Khattak is news editor of PPB.

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