ARC Invests in Medical Safety Gear Production in North Carolina

Investment Will Help Produce Thousands of Pieces Weekly for Regional and National Use

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 16, 2020—Today, the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) announced an investment of $300,000 to The Industrial Commons, in Morganton, North Carolina, to purchase materials and coordinate staff to manufacture needed medical safety gear to fulfill product demand across the Appalachian Region and the nation. The Industrial Commons, and its enterprise the Carolina Textile District, are engaging nearly 600 sewers across 60 textile and furniture companies to cut, sew, and produce thousands of general use face-masks and medical grade gowns per week. The equipment will primarily go to hospitals and social services agencies across the Region and the country. Orders have already been placed from Bronx, New York, and several locations in North Carolina. Distribution will be coordinated by The Industrial Commons from a previously-underused warehouse at an EJ Victor Furniture factory in Morganton, North Carolina.

“During this crisis, I am pleased ARC is investing to produce protective equipment enabling the health and safety of those in our communities, including medical personnel,” said ARC Federal Co-Chairman Tim Thomas. “I commend The Industrial Commons and the Carolina Textile District for stepping up to take on this challenge.”

“I’m proud to partner with ARC to provide this important investment in North Carolina companies,” said North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper. “These funds will help keep North Carolinians working during this crisis and provide personal protective equipment to those on the front lines.”

The Industrial Commons is a non-profit that develops interconnected social enterprises that solve problems for businesses and workers. The Carolina Textile District (CTD) is a network of textile-related companies and manufacturers committed to building a domestic value-chain to bolster the region’s textile industry. CTD hosts workshops and provides contacts and resources that help both new and established companies grow and thrive, and is invested in creating a new and dynamic textile industry that values the worker, the environment, and the community. In 2015, with support from ARC, The Industrial Commons and another founding CTD partner, the Manufacturing Solutions Center, purchased advanced manufacturing equipment and a state-of-the-art cutter to help the network grow and increase efficiency for its small to mid-sized members.

“We are extremely thankful for ARC’s support of this project. They have been a strong partner of ours for many years. This grant will cover critical expenses, like purchasing bulk raw materials and operating the distribution site, that are making it possible to produce these medical supplies through a consortium of manufacturers,” said Sara Chester, Co-Executive Director, The Industrial Commons. “We have so many people to thank—our amazing staff, the local doctors who have tested prototypes and given advice, the companies and individuals who have donated materials or funds, North Carolina’s Task Force for Emergency Repurposing of Manufacturing, and—most importantly—the manufacturers who are pulling together and re-tooling to meet this need. During this extremely difficult time for our country, it has been heartening to see so many people and businesses step up to help, both in their own communities and beyond.”

As of April 16, 8 am ET, there were 18,019 confirmed COVID-19 cases in 387 Appalachian counties. The Appalachian Regional Commission is working closely with many regional and national partners assisting Appalachian communities as they address the economic impacts of the current crisis. More information and resources are available at

About the Appalachian Regional Commission
The Appalachian Regional Commission is an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 420 counties across the Appalachian Region. ARC’s mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia to help the Region achieve socioeconomic parity with the nation.

Note: B-roll footage and additional imagery available upon request.