We salute all Michigan businesses that are answering the call to serve our family, friends and neighbors on the front lines during this coronavirus pandemic. And we thank those who have pivoted to meet the needs of our communities.

We’re proud to provide the energy to keep Michigan going during this challenging time and deliver extra support to small businesses. Here is a look behind the scenes at three businesses: RTD Manufacturing, Inc., Commercial Tool Group and Crank-N-Go Automotive.

Sanitation Station

When supply for disinfectant wipes dried up, employees at RTD Manufacturing, Inc. looked at its 30,000 square-foot manufacturing facility in Jackson and saw an opportunity.

“The big benefit of a small business is agility,” RTD marketing manager Joe Ramsey-Miller said. “Our project manager Irv Stone had an idea. We went to the drawing board and made our own dispenser with the resources we had.”

The result is the Towl-Wet, a disinfectant wipe dispenser that uses ordinary paper towels or industrial roll towels and any off-the-shelf disinfectant to create disinfectant wipes. There are two styles: a clear box for the office and steel for industrial settings. The product is patent and trademark pending.

Besides providing cost-effective options for personal protective equipment to first responders and local businesses, RTD also donated 10 Towl-Wets to first responders such as the Napoleon Fire Department and Sparrow Hospital in Lansing.

A member of the Jackson Area Manufacturers Association, RTD normally produces parts for several industries, including aerospace, automotive and transportation.

The Towl-Wet is the first product the company has developed with its name. Formed in the early 1980s, the family-owned company has 16 employees and has increased production to make about 50 Towl-Wet products per week. They’ve also added an online store because of demand.

Building Injection Molds

As COVID-19 cases rose in Michigan, companies within the Commercial Tool Group in Comstock Park quickly found ways to help the cause.

Commercial Tool & Die responded by building 12 injection molds to manufacture respirators and face masks. Several molds were sent to outside companies to make respirator parts. Meanwhile, sister company, CG Plastics, eventually produced more than 1 million face mask straps.

“We’re known for being able to do a lot of high-quality work fast,” said Keith Foster, vice president of sales and marketing at Commercial Tool Group. “Our customers gave us target timelines, and we worked to design and build a tool in just two weeks when the process usually takes eight to 12 weeks.”

With about 175 employees at its 108,200 square foot facility, the company knew there would not be work for everyone during the statewide shutdown.

“We wanted to contribute to the effort. We had the equipment, the capability and employees that wanted to participate and make a difference,” Foster said. “This effort helped us keep the people working that wanted to and allow those that had concerns about venturing out to stay home.”

Moving Forward

Connecting to local and federal assistance helped Bill Hewitt keep his auto repair shop running during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shortly after Gov. Whitmer’s Stay Home, Stay Safe order, Hewitt went from four employees to just one – himself – at Crank-N-Go Automotive in Jackson.

More than half of the shop’s appointments didn’t show up or cancelled. After two weeks, he laid off his service manager and helper, followed closely by his main technician. Meanwhile, Hewitt ran the business himself for about five weeks, working solo on jobs such as tune-ups and brake and strut replacements. He even offered a frontline discount of a transmission replacement to a frontline hospital worker.

As time passed, Hewitt sought out and applied for financial resources. He received $3,700 from a Dream Maker Fund grant available to local Jackson small businesses. And he was accepted during phase two of the Paycheck Protection Program, offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Securing the aid helped Hewitt bring back his service manager in May. Now, business is picking back up and appointments scheduled two weeks out.

“I wanted to keep the business open as we are essential,” said Hewitt, who started Crank-N-Go in 2004. “I’m very humbled to receive the local grant to help cover expenses during the lost revenue.”