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As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

Cincinnati Valve Company Joins Race To Build Life-Saving Ventilators

Courtesy of Tina Bowen
"I am so proud to work for Richards Industrials," writes Sales Manager Tina Bowen on a social media post. "Today we built in a matter of a couple of hours 10 valves that will be needed tomorrow morning to help produce ventilators to help combat COVID-19!"

Richards Industrials in Oakley makes all kinds of valves. It's products can be found in chemical plants, pharmaceutical plants, refineries, food and beverage manufacturing plants - basically anywhere around the world where product is moved through a pipe, you might find a valve from the Cincinnati-based company.

That now includes in ventilator testing machines by companies making the life-saving pieces of equipment.

"All I can say is a major car company up in Michigan who is making ventilators contacted our customer and said 'I need these things today. Can you do it?,' " explains Charles Page, North American sales manager and business development manager for Richards Industrials.

The answer was yes. The valves were needed to build equipment to check if newly built ventilators hold air properly with no leaks.

The call came around noon on a recent Thursday.

"They said, 'I need 10 of these today,' " Page recalls. "We don't keep them on the shelf built already. We make everything to order. We were able to machine up a couple parts that we needed to complete the valves, build and test the valves, and one of our guys literally got in his car and drove these 10 valves up I-75 and met somebody coming down south from Detroit."

The company installed the valves in its testing equipment and the machines were in the hands of the major car manufacturer the next day, Page says.

Credit Courtesy of Tina Bowen
Employees at Richards Industrials in Oakley built, packaged and delivered 10 valves for ventilator testing machines within a matter of hours.

An Idea Is Created

Since creating the ventilator testing valves, Richards Industrials has expanded its offerings for urgent COVID-19 related needs, especially its pharmaceutical-grade products that can be used for vaccine testing and creation. Page estimates about 34% of regular sales are in the pharma and bio-pharma markets.

The company created a dedicated phone line and email inbox to take requests for emergency parts. Requests started rolling in within hours of going live.

"We've already had two major pharma companies - I'm hesitant to use their names because I don't have clearance from them to use their names but you'd know them if I said them - that have already come to us to say 'I need three of this and two of that. Can you do it fast?' I think that will continue for the medium term," Page says.

Essential Business

Page says Richards Industrials was fortunate to be deemed an essential business and its 150 employees are still working, with social distancing precautions in place or from home, being paid, and "doing good things."

Though cliche, Page says employees feel like family and they're thrilled to be able to help in the fight against the coronavirus.

"They take great pride in meeting a customer's unusual demand," he says. "It happens a lot and when it's a unique one like this, that just makes it even more special."

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.