At the start of the pandemic, Tucson Electric Power faced an urgent need for face masks that were in short supply everywhere.

Two local businesses collaborated to supply the much-needed face coverings for field crews, power plant workers and others who have been working together to maintain our safe, reliable service.

Postcraft and My Inspire Wear are teaming up to produce about 10,000 masks for TEP employees. The locally produced masks help limit the spread of COVID-19 among employees working in close proximity.

“They are a caring and creative group of people who are providing a critical item for our employees,” said Brenda Stopani, Manager of Procurement and Contracts. “This is a great partnership.”

Buying local whenever possible is one of the ways that TEP is supporting local businesses during the coronavirus pandemic. We’re also offering advice, resources and service assistance for commercial customers.

When the pandemic started changing employees’ work assignments, Stopani was desperate to find masks for employees. At first, employees and their mothers volunteered to sew masks as a short-term solution.

Despite their quick work, the volunteers couldn’t hope to keep up with the demand for face coverings. So the search continued for professional manufacturers and suppliers.

Stopani talked to a friend, who owns a local textile design studio, who referred her to My Inspire Wear, which mostly specializes in post-surgery bras for breast cancer survivors. That led to another company, Postcraft, which manufactures products for health-care facilities and businesses.

Critically, Postcraft is supplying polypropylene – a flame and water-resistant fabric – that My Inspire Wear is using to sew masks for crews working near power lines and other energized facilities. My Inspire Wear rents space in the Postcraft building and the two businesses collaborate frequently.

“It’s very much a joint project,” said Bruce Beyer, President of Postcraft Company, which has been in Tucson since 1959. “I’m pleased that we’re able to help locally.”

On site, two teams of two employees produce about 1,000 masks a day. One employee binds the folds and the other binds the tops and bottoms to create the ties.

While the businesses still have other customers, they are devoting most of their work to supply TEP and sister company UniSource Energy Services. Plus, TEP connected the businesses with other utilities in New Mexico to support their need for masks.

“It’s a wonderful collaboration,” said Nancy Lambert, president of My Inspire Wear.

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