KEENE — The Smiths Medical facility on Bowman Drive is joining the U.S. government’s effort to combat the COVID-19 pandemic through a $20 million investment.
The company, based in Minnesota and with plants throughout the world, announced the investment last week. The investment will enable the company to expand the Keene facility and hire 100 more employees. The expansion will allow the company to manufacture the first order of 78.6 million syringes and hypodermic needles needed for an expected vaccine.
“This will support the government’s efforts as they prepare for a vaccination program,” said Vanessa Keir, a Smiths representative.
The initial order of 78.6 million syringes and needles typically takes between 12 and 18 months to complete, she said, but the company is stepping up production and actively recruiting employees. The expansion will allow the company to produce up to 125 million syringes and needles per year.
There are multiple vaccines in development, and it isn’t known yet if the vaccines will require one or multiple injections.
“We don’t want to be in a position where we have the vaccine but no way to administer it,” Keir said.
Keene Mayor George Hansel is thrilled about the contract and what adding 100 jobs will do for the city. The manufacturers and other businesses in Keene are gearing up as the regional economy starts to recover from the COVID-19 recession.
“Keene is really poised to come out of this better,” Hansel said.
Hansel said the city is working with Keene State College, Franklin Pierce University and Antioch University to help address the workforce issues many employers face. The city is also working with Southwest Community Services and others to address housing needs for those employees.
Smiths has been involved in producing equipment needed to treat COVID-19 patients since the pandemic hit the United States six months ago.
“Over the last six months, Smiths Medical has delivered the health care industry increased production of ventilators, infusion pumps, extended dwell catheters and other respiratory products necessary for treating COVID-19 patients,” said JehanZeb Noor, Smiths Medical CEO.
The funding for the $20 million program, part of the company’s $38 million expansion at the Keene facility, comes through the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority or BARDA, part of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department and the Department of Defense.
U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said that Smiths Medical’s efforts to assist with the vaccination program will be vital to rebuilding the health and economy of the country.
“The broad availability of a vaccine is absolutely critical to saving lives and reviving the economy,” Shaheen said in a statement. “I’m glad that New Hampshire will play a large role in this manufacturing effort. I know employees at Smiths Medical stand ready to increase production of these vital needles and syringes and I thank them for their efforts.”