Breaking the Mold: SylvanSport Pivots Production to PPE

In this worldwide crisis, Appalachian businesses are not shying away from the challenge to serve their community and save jobs.

One such business, SylvanSport, an outdoor gear manufacturing company in Brevard, NC, has stepped into a new role producing a range of supplies aimed at keeping those on the front lines safe from infection.

SylvanSport has established authority in the outdoor adventure industry for their innovative camping tent designs. Tom Dempsey, their founder and CEO, has expertise that extends past the outdoor recreation industry; he is a former FDA approved medical device manufacturer. When the team noticed a need for the basic protective gear as well as un-conventional products to keep medical workers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, they set out to transition the factory floor into a hub pumping out solutions to the crisis at hand. Now they are utilizing their unique expertise along with existing supplier relationships to pivot. SylvanSport is making PPE as an essential service during this national emergency. 

“We make campers. We’re not saving the world, so we said really early, let’s be responsible,” said Tom Dempsey, president of SylvanSport. “When this first hit, in the first 24 hours, we were down in the dumps and said, ‘What is this going to do to our business?’ But we quickly shifted our mindset from feeling bad to feeling, ‘What can we do to put our talents to work?’”

Since asking that question, they have mobilized their workforce to design and build everything from face shields to counter guards and medical tents. The SylvanSport Counter Guard protects office workers from airborne contaminants. Full body Protective Tyvek Suits are the disposable armor that healthcare workers in the most vulnerable environments need to stay healthy and save lives. In addition to Face Shields and Emergency Medical Screening Tents, the team is manufacturing Foot Operated Door Openers to keep hands off the most commonly contaminated surfaces.

In addition to their own production, SylvanSport has also joined forces with a network of other manufacturers and material suppliers who are pivoting during the crisis, through a program called Supply Connector. Through the website, Manufacturers can search for materials, design validation, labor, or finished goods as well as list their ability to provide any of them. Essential providers can list their needs for finished goods or their ability to validate product design.