Aug. 3, 2020 - the lieutenant governor visits Josten's in Laurens
“The Pivot” - American Industry knows it well, in this age of the Coronavirus-COVID-19 crisis.
When it became apparent that the United States didn’t have enough PPE, and it would take weeks to get more from China, American Industry went to work. From in-home sewing rooms to vast seas of seamstresses, American made its own masks.
For the vast Josten’s distribution center in Laurens, it went much beyond that. Even with some its plants nationwide shuttered for weeks to months, the company became a masks-maker, gowns-producer, and a back-up to businesses’ regular suppliers of cleaning products. SC Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette saw a small slice of that vast operation Monday on her tour of the Josten’s Laurens plant.
Here, they do custom sewing on the robes you see at college and university commencements, known as the “academic regalia,” and maintain their position in the nation’s most successful supplier of yearbooks and graduation caps, gowns and rings. They make rings for Super Bowl Champions; the Laurens plant officials presented Evette her own Josten’s employee for a day ring.
Evette said to Josten’s employees, “If you’ve ever heard our governor speak, he talks about the people, and it’s you. You’re what makes South Carolina successful. You are what makes me proud to be the lieutenant governor and go to lt. governor meetings in D.C. and talk about what happens in South Carolina. How we all come together. How we all take care of each other, and we all are called to action when we need to.”
This is the plant that responds when a senior forgets his/her graduation robe at commencement. Here, they can customize masks with screen-printing or embroidery.
Josten’s has been in business since 1897, and began producing yearbooks in the 1950s. During the COVID-19 shutdown of schools, they went from school yearbook deliveries “on hold” to “we need them next week” in about a month’s time. The company participated in scores of “drive-by” yearbook distributions - some small and quiet, some major community events. Each yearbook has a “one of a kind year” pull-out. They developed a special computer software to allow students to sign each other’s yearbooks on-line.
The company also went from concept to production of PPE and COVID-19 response materials in about 3 weeks.
That is The Pivot.
SteelCo in Greenville partners with Josten’s Laurens for kits that allow schools to re-open as safely as possible. These include disinfectants and social-distancing signage. The local company wants to fill the void that other industries may have in their industrial cleaning supplies.
Evette said, “South Carolinians are resilient and very giving. As the Governor (Henry McMaster) says, that comes from generations of pride in our state.”
(Lt. Gov. Pamela S. Evette's schedule for August 3rd also included a 1 pm tour of JR Automation Technologies, 105 Financial Boulevard, Liberty, S.C.) -- Photos and article by Vic MacDonald; ring photo courtesy of the Laurens County Development Corporation