In these unprecedented times of the COVID-19 pandemic, we at the Cherokee Office of Economic Development are diligently researching ways to help local business. From startups to corporates, we are reminded of the talent of Cherokee County’s people.  At the start of the crisis, Jonathan Chambers, Community Manager of Entrepreneurship, immediately started a series to highlight local entrepreneurs and how they are coping with challenges - https://www.cherokeega.org/about/news/. We are also reaching out to our corporations to check the health of their business and employees while gaining best practices as well. An interview with Earl Lawson, President of CAIRE Inc., produced valuable insight that our local industries, and industries across the globe, will find helpful.

CAIRE Inc., headquartered in Ball Ground, has been a leading global manufacturer of oxygen supply equipment for over 50 years. CAIRE’s portfolio includes portable and stationary oxygen therapy devices, and turnkey on-site generation commercial solutions. These products support home care, hospice, long-term care, hospitals, and military and key industrial applications.

In addition to the manufacturing headquarters in Ball Ground, CAIRE’s global locations are in Anjo, Japan; Buffalo, NY; Padova, Italy; Langenfeld, Germany; Wokingham, UK; and Chengdu, China.  Having a global presence has provided CAIRE with a perspective that not all industries encounter. At the beginning of 2020, CAIRE faced what American industries are facing currently. Their facility in Chengdu, China was shut down due to COVID-19 preventive measures, but was one of the first plants to reopen during the first week of February because of great leadership and quick implementation measures that have helped the company at all of their locations across the globe, now including the headquarters in Ball Ground.

“CAIRE’s production facilities are now staggering start times, taking employees’ temperatures upon entering the facility, practicing social distancing with staggered lunch times and reduced tables in break rooms, as well as shutting lines down for extra cleaning during the day,” Lawson said.  These measures have helped the company keep running amid the global crisis. Lawson said, “our top concerns are protecting our valued employees and keeping the supply chain running for both raw materials and distribution of finished goods.” The company is staying in close contact with state officials to stay abreast of any changes to transportation and other policies that could impact the supply chain worldwide.

On a personal note, Lawson is a former officer in the U.S. Army. When asked how his experience helps him in leading CAIRE, he simply said “my military training and experience taught me to stay calm and communicate.” And that is what he has been doing with his employees – communicating both personally and in writing. He also said that, like his military colleagues, CAIRE’s employees, and the community in general, feel the sense of duty and higher purpose. They want to connect and find ways to work together. His last words of advice about getting through this pandemic, “stay calm and committed.”

Lawson shared his company’s implementation measures that are helping them to continue working during the crisis. It can be viewed here.

For more information and business resources, visit COED’s website at: COVID-19 Resources webpage.  You may also follow on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cherokeeofficeofeconomicdevelopment/.

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Misti Martin is president of the Cherokee Office of Economic Development.

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