Acreage resident Mike Erickson, a former Indian Trail Improvement District supervisor and owner of the Riviera Beach-based Canvas Designers, has branched into the personal protective equipment (PPE) industry with the manufacture of consumer and medical-grade masks.
The plant, called New Norm Live, is the first in South Florida and one of only three or four companies in the nation manufacturing these masks.
When the pandemic struck in March, Erickson retooled equipment to manufacture masks that he mostly gave away. However, with the help of his nephew’s college roommate from Taiwan, he found a company that manufactured machines that could produce 120,000 masks per day.
“His dad has a manufacturing company,” Erickson told the Town-Crier on Wednesday.
His nephew’s roommate, Roger, would come to his home in The Acreage for the holidays. On Dec. 31, 2019, Erickson got a text from the roommate that there was something bad going on in China’s Wuhan region.
“His dad has a factory in the region, and they got local knowledge of it before it ever went anywhere,” Erickson said. “In mid-January, we got a call saying it’s getting really bad, and it’s getting out of China.”
In March, when PPE was in short supply, Erickson’s company Canvas Designers, which is a canvas outfitter for boats, retooled its equipment to make non-medical-quality cloth masks.
“We were still open because we were designated critical already in the marine industry. Our business is off the rockers; canvas is doing great,” he said.
Also in March, Erickson got word from Roger that his family was making machines that mass produce medical-grade masks and offered Erickson a family deal to purchase one. Easy Field Corporation (EFC) is a major partner in building mask machines for the Taiwanese and Japanese governments.
Erickson, who is on the board of the National Trade Association for the manufacture of textiles, found domestic sources, including ionic filter material, to feed the materials to the machine to make masks.
“We committed to buying the machine in March and had it sent here,” he said.
In August, Erickson flew to Taiwan.
“It took me a month and a half to get a permit to even go because it’s very shut down,” he said. “I went all the way to [U.S. Rep.] Alcee Hastings’ office to get support letters and sent them to the consulate.”
Once in Taiwan, Erickson was sprayed down with disinfectant at the airport, then spent two weeks in quarantine at a hotel before being allowed to go to the factory for training on the machine.
“There were 10 people in our 747,” he recalled.
Despite the inconvenience, Erickson said Taiwan has done a great job controlling the virus locally.
Back here in the states, his company has staffed the first shift for the machine and now produces tens of thousands of masks per day with plans to ramp up to a three-shift production over the next few months.
New Norm Live is currently in the FDA certification process to produce consumer and medical-grade disposable masks. Scaling potential for the operation in the future includes plans to bring up to 10 more machines to their Riviera Beach facilities with a future production capability of more than two million masks daily.
“New Norm Live is highly committed to developing locally produced PPE capacity in South Florida and to contribute to the country’s ability to manufacture PPE domestically,” Erickson said.
Learn more about the masks at www.newnorm.live.