Coronavirus in Oklahoma: State, local officials create site to help businesses find needed PPE from Oklahoma suppliers
Businesses looking to reopen are needing to stock up on personal protective equipment, and at least some in Oklahoma City are hoping they can find what they need from Oklahoma-based manufacturers.
A website created by Oklahoma’s Department of Commerce through a partnership with the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance and the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber can help.
The site, okcommerce.gov/ppe, went live last week, and that news was welcomed Monday by Selena Skorman, executive director of the Plaza District Association.
“Our businesses want to purchase hand sanitizer and other PPE from local places as a way to support the Oklahoma City economy,” Skorman said.
On Monday, the website included five Oklahoma-based companies that are making PPE materials that could supply businesses needing those materials.
“In our conversations with companies across the region, access to PPE is one of the top barriers to a return to the workplace,” said Roy Williams, the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber’s CEO. “This tool is critical to getting business access to the help they need."
Williams and state officials noted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided both guidelines and suggestions businesses seeking to reopen should follow to protect the health of both their employees and customers.
“Some of the more well-known suppliers of PPE and other medical supplies may be backordered,” said Kinnee Tilly, the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance’s vice president of business development and operations. “By creating this directory, we are working to provide options, particularly of Oklahoma manufacturers, so that Oklahoma companies can get the supplies and equipment they need in order to get back to work safely.”
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Officials are encouraging other Oklahoma businesses that are making PPE to apply to be added to the site.
“There are dozens of manufacturers and medical supply distributors in our state and the surrounding area that can provide Oklahoma companies with the supplies they need to get back to business,” said Brent Kisling, Oklahoma’s Department of Commerce executive director. “By putting together this directory, we’re not only helping Oklahoma companies resume their operations, but we’re also creating business opportunities for Oklahoma companies that produce and provide these goods — both of which will help our economy move out of this crisis.”
Skorman said Monday that Plaza District businesses are cautiously moving forward on their reopening plans by evaluating social distancing practices that remain prescribed by local and state authorities.
One retailer that typically features multiple vendors selling their products from closely spaced booths inside of its business won’t reopen for now, she observed.
“The owner is remaining closed to help promote public health,” Skorman said.
However, she noted other businesses plan to open and offer curbside service by appointment, while a few others that can reopen and still meet social distancing parameters are choosing to do so.
“I think what is so interesting about the Plaza District is all of its businesses are small and locally owned,” Skorman said. “It is a hard decision and we respect everyone’s determinations on when and how to reopen.
“They are doing the best that they can to balance public health concerns against supporting their businesses and employees.”