If you have an office job, then by the time you read this you will probably have spent a week or more working from home, or at least trying to do so. But if you own a manufacturing business or work for one, working from home is probably not an option.

When you produce things, that production needs to take place at your business’ location. So, it’s logistically impossible for the entire staff to work from home. This has presented manufacturers in Allentown and around the world with the problem of how to keep their business up and running while keeping their employees safe and healthy from the COVID-19 virus.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, along with the PA Department of Labor and Industry, has identified which manufacturers it considers to be “life-sustaining businesses,” in which case operations may continue. But for those that don’t fall into that category, their operations had to cease.

“At this point, the manufacturers that we deal with are still trying to digest all that is happening, and they are making decisions on the fly as needed,” said Richard Hobbs, President and CEO of Manufacturers Resource Center in Allentown. “Employee health and safety is front of mind and most manufacturers are eliminating travel, not allowing for external visitors to their facilities, and promoting working remotely wherever possible. They are all dealing with their situations on a case-by-case basis. Startups have different scenarios than more mature companies.”

According to Colin McEvoy, Director of Communications for Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation in Bethlehem, “… it will be some time – likely weeks or months – before measurable data is available that will allow us to quantify the specific economic impact the pandemic has had on individual sectors such as manufacturing… LVEDC will also be working to help assess what is happening in our business community and help employers understand actions recommended by state and federal agencies, and how those recommendations affect them.”

Bridgeworks Enterprise Center startup owner Laura Valasakos expects to make less of her fermented tea beverage now that the places she sells to are closing up. “High Point Kombucha is available in a few stores and restaurants. With restaurants being closed, I don’t expect any new orders from them any time soon. It’s been moving a bit in stores, and I have yet to see how it will move at my farmers’ market this weekend. My biggest account is a local college which is closed at the moment, and I have a few new accounts being set up that are on hold for the time being. Overall, I expect things to be slow over the next month or two. Making order deliveries has become a little bit of a challenge.”

Whether it’s increased sanitation of surfaces, changing floorplan layout to allow for social distancing, or creating new employee shifts to reduce overlap, each manufacturing business is reacting to the demands of the national health crisis differently.

Management of the Bridgeworks manufacturing business incubation program also increased the regularity of routine cleaning services of common areas, such as the kitchen and bathrooms, as well as door handles.

“We feel that the best course of action is that all of our client companies make their own decisions about continuing business operations as allowed by the Governor’s mandate,” said David Dunn, Program Manager. “Only they and their staff can decide if they should be here. While we implore them to remain isolated at home if they have any sign or symptoms of the virus. But if they don’t, they may come and go as they usually would.”

“Bridgeworks and AEDC staff will continue to assist clients in the coming months as they may face potential hardships’” he continued. “Every situation is unique, and we want to help your business get past this situation. We recognize that this time is sure to test us all,” the statement concluded.