PAWTUCKET – City officials are hailing proposed plans for a new manufacturing facility to produce personal protective equipment, or PPE, at the Pawtucket Associates property at 95 Grand Ave.
Ultra Footwear Accelerator is looking to establish the facility that will manufacture surgical respirators and PPE, employing 80 people to start. The very preliminary plan, according to Commerce Director Jeanne Boyle, is that a second phase of the project would expand operations to include a footwear component and add another 50 jobs.
“The city is very excited about this project for a number of reasons,” she wrote in a letter of support to the R.I. Commerce Corp., which is considering a request for funding from Ultra Footwear through the Qualified Jobs Incentive Tax Credit Program. “We are very pleased that an essential product that is needed to combat the COVID pandemic will be produced here in Pawtucket and that Rhode Island will not have to rely on outsourced supplies to address its critical needs.”
According to Boyle, UFA was poised to locate their factory in Maine but decided to move it to Pawtucket largely due to the efforts of Jeff Miller and John Riendeau of R.I. Commerce, Olivia Byron from the Rhode Island Division of Labor and Training, and Herb Weiss from the Pawtucket Commerce Department.
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Wilson Deng, owner and founder of UFA, told The Breeze Monday that the deal to come to Pawtucket and Rhode Island isn’t finalized, but he chose this location for a number of reasons, including that it’s close to his house and the area has great density, which is good for recruitment.
Deng said the Massachusetts-based company received a number of good offers, including from its home state, Florida and Maine.
According to Deng, delving into an essential product such as PPE brings a fresh offering to the company. He said government assistance through a low-interest loan would help UFA speed up its timeline. He said machines are already on the barge on their way to the U.S.
Deng has more than two decades of experience in the shoe business, working for such companies as Nike, Adidas and Under Armour. The company brands itself as “your source for footwear components sourcing.”
UFA does significant business in China, using its patented technology. Deng said the footwear business is a complicated one, which is why there aren’t too many shoe factories in the U.S.
It wasn’t immediately clear what sort of package UFA is seeking from the state.