By Dawn Azok
Made in Alabama

A south Alabama printing company is helping front-line health care workers at home and across the U.S. fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mobile-based Calagaz Printing Inc. had produced about 153,000 protective face shields as of April 22, the result of collaborating with local hospitals and shifting its operations to meet a crucial need.

Production is continuing on the project, which began four weeks ago, said Michael Cuesta, the company’s director of sales who initiated the idea.

During that time, Calagaz Printing has been able to sell bulk orders to hospitals, as well as 25-count boxes to individuals.

“We’ve really spanned the gamut of need, from the mother who was concerned about her daughter working in a medical facility, to as many as 50,000 in our largest hospital order,” he said.

The face shields have been shipped to customers in 16 states.

“We’ve been working directly with regional hospitals and hospital systems, and we recently started working with a few hospice facilities,” Cuesta said.

In light of the current global concerns, Calagaz Printing Director of Sales Michael Cuesta proposed the idea of reimagining the company’s equipment into creating face shields for health care workers. Calagaz turned out 153,000 shields in weeks. (Calagaz)

Meeting a new demand

The Calagaz family in 1955 established Calagaz Photo, a firm that developed film and sold cameras and photography equipment.

In 1993, third-generation family member Joe Calagaz founded Calagaz Printing, a separate company that serves the restaurant industry and regional businesses, which have been hard-hit by the pandemic. The company, which has 17 employees, provides menus, posters, stickers, table tents and other printed items for national restaurants.

Mobile’s Calagaz Printing has turned out 153,000 protective face shields for health care workers after readjusting its production. (Calagaz)

Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, said the project shows the innovation and ingenuity of businesses that are facing extreme challenges during the pandemic.

“Calagaz Printing has found a way to not only keep their employees working and operations running, but also to provide a much-needed product for its community and others across the country,” he said.

Cuesta said the face shield project began with consultations with the five major hospitals in Mobile: Mobile InfirmaryProvidence HospitalSpringhill Medical Center and the University of South Alabama’s University Hospital and Children’s and Women’s Hospital.

“We looked at the existing shields and boiled it down to the production components we understood,” he said. “Then we ordered basic supplies to create prototypes and presented those to the hospitals for their teams’ approval.”

Making an impact

The Calagaz team began work on the final product and word spread quickly about the new source of face shields and the fast turnaround time.

“Our phones have been ringing like crazy,” Cuesta said. “We hear the same story over and over. People have said, ‘Wow, you’re going to be able to get them to me more quickly than my own supply chain,’ which in some cases was backordered until summer.”

Initially, Calagaz planned to focus on Alabama, but after supplying local hospitals, the company kept going.

“It’s been great for our employees, for them to hold their head high as they make an impact in these times, and also be able to have work to do,” Cuesta said.

This story originally appeared on the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Made in Alabama website.