Made in Ormond Beach: Sportswear Company Revolves to Meet Growing Need for Face Masks
The FitUSA Manufacturing logo is an antique sewing machine.
This represents a throwback to the basics, President Troy Olson said, calling it “old-fashioned American hard work. And what’s great about this country, he said, is that when challenges arise, people come together. He has seen it firsthand in his business.
âHearts are one and here we go,â Olson said.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, FitUSA made sportswear. But as events were postponed and sporting seasons suspended, the company had to find new good to produce to stay afloat financially. This is where its employees stepped up, Olson said. They suggested that FitUSA start making face masks.
âIt made sense,â Olson said. “Either you close the doors and send people home, or you find a way to go through that and help people across the country.”
Olson and his research team began examining the components that make up an N95 mask, finding that the fabric of their sports uniform matched one part of the mask materials: 100% spun polyester.
Their sports jersey fabric had to be better for making simple cotton masks, Olson thought. But he was challenged to find a way to cut red tape.
âIt’s hard to think outside the box because we’ve never been placed in this position in our history,â said Olson. “So I knew we had to help. There had to be a way.”
Ormond Beach Director of Economic Development Brian Rademacher had worked with Olson to find a solution for the transition from activewear to masks, and he suggested they listen to an emergency management call with representatives from the State and health care in mid-March regarding the coronavirus outbreak.
âDuring this whole phone call, all we heard over and over was, ‘We need PPE. We need face masks. We need dresses. We need all of this, âRademacher said.
Olson was fortunate enough to step in and say his company was ready to start manufacturing face masks and personal protective equipment – gowns, face masks or other clothing intended to protect the wearer from biohazards – and that he just needed some direction.
Two minutes later, Olson was on the phone with representatives from Halifax Health. At noon that day, he was sitting inside the DME Sports Academy, showing off prototypes of a basic surgical face mask.
At 2 p.m., FitUSA was officially in the mask manufacturing business.
The company sells its basic face masks for $ 6.75. FitUSA also offers a fitted three-layer mask for $ 13.25; it is awaiting approval by the Food and Drug Administration. The masks are all reusable and washable, and Olson said they should last more than 30 washes.
Unlike other companies across the country, pivoting their business to masks has also enabled FitUSA to hire more employees. Olson said he has lost track of how many employees he currently has.
From an economic standpoint, Rademacher said it is beneficial to have companies like FitUSA and others in Ormond Beach continue to hire and provide services.
“It’s pretty amazing to see that there is still this opportunity to have them produced and to provide benefits to the local economy,” Rademacher said.
Although the company’s transition happened quickly, for Olson the move went beyond financial logistics.
âAt the end of that, when we get out of this, we just want to be able to say we’ve made a difference, and I know our people there – their hearts and souls are there,â he said.