As tough news continues to break associated with COVID-19's impact on the bowling industry--most recently, that news includes the cancellation of the trade show portion of Bowl Expo--many are looking for a bright spot amid the gloom.
That is exactly what Polychem, the longtime manufacturer of bowling lane care products, is providing the most distressed and vulnerable people and facilities within Rockland County, N.Y., where the company is headquartered.
"We realized that there was a shortage of sanitizer locally here in Rockland County," says US Polychemical's Chief Operating Officer Bruce Gebhardt. "The county purchasing department had 20 people on the phones calling every corner of the county to find the sanitizer. Once we announced that we were making it, the phones rang off the hook."
The scarce supply of hand sanitizer caused by coronavirus has manufacturers of the product scrambling to meet demand, as we reported here yesterday. To fill in the void locally, Gebhardt says Polychem enlisted the ingenuity of its Ph.D. chemist, who mixed a formula including 70 percent isopropyl alcohol, "which is above the government's recommendation of 60 percent," Gebhardt explains.
The scarcity not only of hand sanitizer itself, but also the ingredients required for people and companies to make it on their own, also is becoming an issue.
"We were able only to get a fraction of the isopropyl alcohol we needed and quickly price-gouging showed its ugly head," Gebhardt says. "Within a week, the price for isopropyl alcohol went up 36 percent. There was nothing to warrant that in the distribution pipeline other than greed."
Indeed, the panicked search for hand sanitizer in an effort to ward off coronavirus has, in some instances, brought out the worst in people. One Tennessee man who hoarded more than 17,000 bottles of hand sanitizer to sell them at a profit on sites like Amazon now faces an investigation for price gouging. (He subsequently donated the supplies through a local church.)
Another challenge has been the need for a thickening agent, which Gebhardt says has been tough to obtain, "so we are producing a water-viscosity product that has some application issues."
In addition to supplying their custom-made hand sanitizer to local nursing homes, first responders and hospitals, all Polychem employees now have it for their personal use and are able to take it home for their families to use as well.
In the meantime, Polychem is taking other measures to combat the outbreak.
"We have asked all employees who can work from home to do so, as New York state has mandated a 50 percent reduction in workforce," Gebhardt says. "To say this is a crazy time is far short of what is actually going on."
Thanks to Polychem, though, it's a little less crazy for those who most need the help in the place the company calls home.