Most large local industrial employers remain in operation.

Jun 2, 2020

MOSES LAKE — Most of the region’s largest businesses are either too specialized or essential to the fight against the COVID-19 virus to change to producing medical goods or equipment, according to the head of a local industry group.

“Most industries are pretty specific and are difficult to retool,” said Chuck Sutton, head of the Grant County Industrial Alliance and vice president for production at REC Silicon. “So we (the Industrial Alliance) are looking for where we can contribute.”

Sutton said the majority of the alliance’s members “are considered essential and are still running.”

“Some examples of the essential services, data centers keeping information available for hospitals and farmers, companies making materials for the semiconductor industry that goes into medical equipment and devices, manufacturing of raw materials that feed the supply lines that help support the infrastructures in transportation along with materials to allow folks to work from home,” he said.

Alliance members include Chemi-Con Materials (which makes a specialized foil used in electronic devices), the Columbia Basin Railroad, H5 Data Centers, Joyson Safety Systems, Microsoft, Moses Lake Industries, Norco (a producer of industrial gases, including pure oxygen), Nouryon (a specialty chemical company), NTT Data Services, REC Silicon, Sabey, Vantage and Verizon Media.

All of the Alliance’s member companies have assessed “the requirements for health and well-being of their employees, addressed the potential for working from home, along with the social distancing needs in the work place,” Sutton added.

According to Andreas Puetz, a spokesperson for SGL Carbon in Wiesbaden, Germany, the company’s Moses Lake production facility remains open as an essential business.

“As of today, we are continuing our operations at our Moses Lake facility to ensure the supply of products critical to the renewable energy and infrastructure sectors,” Puetz wrote in an email to the Columbia Basin Herald. “We are in contact with the state agency and are ready to make adjustments if the pandemic situation requires it.

“Of course, we have taken all necessary steps to protect the safety and health of our employees at our Moses Lake plant,” Puetz added.

SGL produces carbon fiber that is then woven into sheets and mats, which are used in automobiles, windmills and helicopters.

Sutton said REC has donated a number of protective masks and protective gear to Samaritan Hospital in Moses Lake, and other companies are looking at ways to help local businesses or have donated money to the Columbia Basin Foundation to help local non-profits.

“We started a COVID-19 crisis fund,” said Corrine Isaak, office administrator at the Columbia Basin Foundation. “Our purpose is to help with relief. We are trying to focus on chambers (of commerce), food banks, senior centers, youth, the homeless, and mental health.”