BLACKDUCK, Minn. -- Since 1980, Anderson Fabrics in Blackduck has been a leader in the décor and design industry as a wholesale production company. While that has not changed in 40 years, the company is now gearing up to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.

The factory in Blackduck -- about 25 miles north of Bemidji -- is expected to begin producing personal protective equipment for medical professionals. Anderson Fabrics hit the spotlight last week when Gov. Tim Walz announced that public-private partnerships are forming. At a Friday, March 20, briefing, the governor said Anderson will begin creating scrubs for medical responders.

The company produces window treatments, swags and cascades, bedding, headboards, draperies, shades and more.

“The needs out there for our company and our customers are affecting the entire industry right now,” said Jennifer Morrison, Anderson’s director of sales and marketing. “While we are still producing for our design customers now, we are committed to manufacturing (personal protective equipment) for health care workers and making that our priority as soon as possible.”

Anderson Fabrics is working with federal agencies to ensure the company is organized and ready when it gets the go-ahead to begin production. The factory is prepared, and Morrison is confident that they will be able to make the switch to personal protective equipment easily.

“Going forward we want to ensure that the products we make serve their purpose and are safe,” Morrison said. “Our main concern is that we do everything correctly the first time because there’s no time to waste. We could certainly make something at this point but we’re not yet informed in order to work up to the appropriate specifications and since there are very few people who are making these items out there, our goal is to get it right. No mistakes.”

As of Tuesday, March 24, there was still more information coming in from government officials, but no time frame for the kickoff of PPE production is known.

“We are going into this with the attitude that we will do as much as we can as long as our help is needed,” Morrison said. “If the need is ongoing we will be prepared to keep at this for a long time. We are very flexible.

"That means that changing gears to produce personal protective equipment won’t be hard, we just need the information and specifications to get started." She said. "Once we have it we will move forward and hopefully can do our part to help.”

Morrison said the Anderson Fabrics workers are excited to serve the greater good.

“We’ve always been able to meet our customers’ needs, but now we are thinking outside the box,” said Morrison. “We are a large employer in a small community so we’re one of the main sources of support for this area."

She explained that they are one of the biggest manufacturers in northern Minnesota, and they plan to keep their employees working for as long as they can.

"By keeping them working, it will keep other businesses in town busy because we stay open," Morrison said. "At the same time we’ll improve our employees’ morale by producing something that is desperately needed in a difficult time. I think that when something like this comes up we have to take the lessons that are given to us and do our part."

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