NMU alumnus Richard Anderson (‘78 MA) has used his Thompsonville business, Iron Fish Distillery, as a force for good by producing much-needed sanitizer during the spread of COVID-19. Consumer demand has fueled a shortage impacting critical health and human service organizations.
“It's been a roller coaster,” said co-owner Anderson in a press release. “We went from gearing up our staffing for the summertime and working overtime producing spirits, to laying off 98% of our staff due to the government mandate. Then we came to understand there is a critical need for hand sanitizer.”
Ethanol, which is used in the production of spirits, is also the primary ingredient in sanitizer. The federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau modified its regulations, allowing already-permitted distillers such as Iron Fish to make hand sanitizer products during the crisis.
“It has been so gratifying to be able to retool our distillery to address the needs of our local hospital system and regional essential industries,” said Anderson. “Many businesses helped Iron Fish along the way with help providing containers and logistical support. Distilleries across the country are in the fortunate position of being able to step in to fill the void, and nothing at this time is more important for a local business than to be of service to its community.”
After offering free sanitizer to the public one day in late March, Anderson and co-owner David Wallace began receiving hundreds of calls and emails, demonstrating the overwhelming demand. They also became aware of the urgent need for sanitizer among front-line health care professionals.
Iron Fish began working non-stop to produce hand sanitizer for Munson Healthcare facilities throughout northern Michigan. It is producing about 500 gallons a week, enough to fill the needs of Manistee and Benzie County health and human service organizations and nonprofits. Cherry Capital Airport (TVC) also purchased sanitizer to keep the airport safe for travelers and staff.
Iron Fish has now extended its reach to the Upper Peninsula, partnering with the Marquette BLP to make sanitizer available to U.P. businesses. For more on this aspect, watch a related WLUC-TV report here.