Factory town used to produce 9/10 medical surgical masks used in the US. Bown/Reese bought the plant believing a market remained for a dedicated domestic manufacturer of protective gear. Seeked a "warm base" contract. The government would pay a premium to have masks manufactured domestically, but his company would keep its extra factory lines in working order, meaning production could be ramped up in an emergency. the event of a pandemic, the country would need 5.3 billion N95 respirator masks, 50 times more than the number in the stockpile.
After Trump’s election, Bowen hoped the new president’s America-first mentality might trickle down to operations like his. He wrote a letter to Trump and addressed it to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue: “90% of the United States protective mask supply is currently FOREIGN MADE!” it began.
In Trump’s first year, however, Bowen grew newly disillusioned. During a week that the White House touted its “Buy American, Hire American” initiative, Bowen lost a military contract worth up to $1 million, to a supplier that would make many of the masks in Mexico, he said.