Air Innovations in North Syracuse preparing to be part of ‘Phase One’ in re-opening process

Local News

NORTH SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Manufacturers in Central New York are operating under the assumption that their business will be fully operational soon. But they’re still waiting on the green light from Governor Andrew Cuomo for their region to begin “Phase One,” which involves manufacturing companies.

That includes Air Innovations in North Syracuse, which is a manufacturing company making everything from homeland security products to special air conditioning equipment and wine cellars.

In the beginning of the pandemic, some of that was deemed essential by the governor, except for most of the wine side of the business. As a result of that and other changes in demand, they had to pull back on operations and furlough 25 workers. Since then, they got a federal loan through the Paycheck Protection Program and have slowly started hiring some of those employees back.

“We were developing procedures daily, it felt like. And even now, every week, we make adjustments to the procedures and we add things, we learn things, we discover things,” said Michael Wetzel, President and CEO of Air Innovations.

Air Innovations has implemented several new procedures to stop the spread of the virus. Now, all employees must get their temperature checked and go through a health screening before they enter the building. In addition, everyone wears a mask throughout the building, except when they’re alone at their desk. In terms of the production floor, they have split up the shifts and reduced density by 50 percent.

While Air Innovations has been open for business, many other manufacturers are in the same boat. Randy Wolken, the President and CEO of MACNY, The Manufacturers Association of Central New York, said about 75-80% of the 300 companies they oversee have been open. Only a few will need to start from scratch once the time comes.

“And that won’t be an instant process,” Wolken said. “So what they’ll have to do is develop protocols and do training and instruction. So generally speaking, they would probably start at a lower density, and then bring on people as they establish protocols,” Wolken said.

So far, Wolken said out of the manufacturers he oversees, there have been no reports of any employees testing positive for COVID-19. He says manufacturers are part of Phase One for a reason.

“One, they can do it at low risk. And two, its absolutely critical in a global economy that your manufacturing base is up and running. It brings revenues to the community and the state. They’re high paying jobs, high tech jobs, they’re the kinds of jobs you have to maintain,” Wolken said.

And those that have been open have seen success with their protocols, though they are varying on a weekly and sometimes daily basis. Wetzel said he’s hopeful they will be able to operate at full capacity soon.

“We have clients all over the world that are looking for products and yeah, we want to get back to building our products and be delivering them again and get back to sort of normal, right,” Wetzel said.

As of Wednesday, the 13th, Gov. Andrew Cuomo still has not given Central New York the green light to start Phase One this Friday. County executive Ryan McMahon however, is under the assumption that we will make that mark.

These companies are also waiting for specific guidance from the state on requirements they need to meet before opening. 

In the meantime, the Manufacturers Association of Central New York has a free program for businesses on their website on things manufacturers could be doing right now to prepare for that day.

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For more local news, follow Julia LeBlanc on Twitter @JuliaLeBlancNC9.

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