In business for more than 100 years, Freeman Manufacturing is well versed in adapting to the times. While product evaluation and customer service demands have forced many changes over the years, the commitment to product excellence and customer satisfaction continues. Headquartered in Sturgis, the organization is registered with the FDA and specializes in creating different types of bracing, including back and knee bracing. As the need for additional medical supplies arose, Jacqueline Harrison, the president of Freeman Manufacturing said it was an easy transition for the organization. “For us, it was kind of a natural jump to think we had the sewing capabilities and that we could help with PPE shortage,” said Jacqueline.
As the company shifted gears, new relationships with community leaders, organizations, and suppliers have developed— relationships that Jacqueline said she is grateful for. “We’ve been really fortunate,” she said. “A lot of people have worked really well with us by helping to put us in contact with a few different hospitals and facilitating our ability to make this transition.” The newly developed connections have resulted in funding opportunities, identifying a Michigan supplier of material, and having the ability to extend further into the community.
Cathy Knapp, a partner at Southwest Michigan First, worked with Freeman to obtain funding worth $100,000 through the Pure Michigan Business Connect grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) that will allow the organization to expand its efforts in supporting frontline workers. “Freeman Manufacturing has been performing industrial sewing for medical supports and braces,” said Cathy. “This grant allows them to capitalize on their knowledge base and add new machinery and equipment. This will diversify their offerings and strengthen their business while serving an essential need in this state and beyond.”
The grant will allow the organization to double its current daily production of 1,000 isolation gowns and “really gives us the opportunity to quickly ramp up operations, the ability to bring in more equipment, and quickly transition into a much larger output,” said Jacqueline.
While funding and support from the community have been essential to Freeman’s ability to successfully transition, its employees willingness to adapt made the change go so smoothly. “Our employees have been really receptive and really wanting to help the community,” said Jacqueline. “It’s been honestly even more well-accepted than we could have imagined. We were concerned obviously. It’s a scary time for everyone and everyone wants to try to remain safe. And so we were very, very happy that our employees were so open-minded to this transition.”