WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, during a hearing of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Manufacturing, Trade, and Consumer Protection, U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV) spoke with American manufacturing leaders on the industry’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Witnesses present for the hearing included Ravi Bulusu, Co-Founder of wholesale pharmaceutical distribution company MolMas; Rick Krska, President and Chief Executive Servant of toner remanufacturing company TonerCycle/LaserCycle; Michael Wessel, commissioner of the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC); and Tiffany Stovall, CEO of Kansas Manufacturing Solutions. A transcript of the Senator’s full exchange can be found below, and a video of the Senator’s full exchange can be found here.
ROSEN: I want to build upon what my colleagues have already asked you about workforce training and re-training. During the pandemic, American ingenuity has been a bright spot, and our nation has exhibited – many of your companies and many in my state – the ability to tackle these insurmountable problems.
For example, when the pandemic hit, there was a plastics manufacturer in Sparks, Nevada. They started making face shields and safety partitions for casinos, restaurants, and government agencies. The University of Nevada, Reno’s Innovation Center teamed up with our state’s MEP center, Nevada Industry Excellence, to produce gowns for local health care workers. This August, I had the opportunity to virtually visit with Frey Ranch, it’s in Churchill County. They make whiskey and bourbon and shifted to producing hand sanitizer. Similarly, work began at Las Vegas Distillery in Henderson, they pivoted their operations from vodka, rum, and whisky to also produce hand sanitizer.
So I want to thank you for addressing some of the challenges that we have doing this for PPE and some of the other things like workforce training because we know that having a skilled workforce that is able to be nimble and readily adapt is going to impact how quickly our businesses can come back. But I’d like to build on that a bit because I also believe that we have to build consumer confidence for going back indoors. What are we all worried about? The quality of our air. Indoor air quality is what stops us from going to restaurants, to arenas, to concerts, hotels, and casinos like I have in Nevada.
So Ms. Stovall, in your experience working with small- and medium-sized manufacturers, do you know of companies that are working to produce the very important type of HEPA filters and the filtration systems that we’re going to need, those electronic air cleaners, that will help jumpstart our economy and make us feel more comfortable to go back indoors through this pandemic?
STOVALL: Thank you for the question. Yes, as a matter of fact. Earlier in your comments you referenced ingenuity and the ingenuity of manufacturers. Manufacturing is built on innovation. We are a country of makers. We make things. So it’s in times like these when we have critical needs, needs that may be a little bit different than they were six months prior to that, that companies are looking to say, “how can we do better at meeting the need?” That’s where this innovation comes from. Companies are doing this on their own. I keep pointing that out because I want you all to really understand the time, the dollar investment, what manufacturers are doing on their own and what we need to be able to do to support them. So back to your question of, are there companies that are looking at indoor air quality? Absolutely. They are because that is a need. So while we are looking at what are our needs right now, masks, ventilators – those kinds of needs we’re also looking at what gets us back to some sense of normalcy? Which is, what will make the public comfortable with going into buildings, into retail spaces and office spaces? And that is an increased focus on indoor air quality so yes, that is something that is being looked at by manufacturers not only in Kansas but across the country.
ROSEN: Well, I thank you for that. I would like to speak a little bit more about, I know that there is another committee meeting coming up right after us so I will submit those questions for the record. I think it is really important that we talk about indoor air quality because it is key to getting folks back to sports, schools, and all of the things that we all miss so dearly. Thank you all for being here today.