Two Oakland County Manufacturers Receive Grants to Make Gear for Health Care and First Responders in COVID-19 Crisis

Gown production underway at Vaughn Custom Sports in Oxford. (Photo courtesy of Vaughn Custom Sports)

An Oxford-based manufacturer of ice hockey equipment and a Pontiac company specializing in knitwear were awarded “Saving Business, Saving Lives” grants to make desperately needed personal protective equipment used in the fight against the coronavirus.

The grants, awarded to Vaughn Custom Sports and Detroit Sewn, were announced today by Oakland County Executive David Coulter. They are the first two companies to receive grants from a $700,000 fund proposed by Coulter and approved by the county Board of Commissioners to incentivize Oakland County manufacturers who can shift production to personal protective equipment such as masks, gowns and face shields.

(Photo courtesy of Vaughn Custom Sports)

“I applaud and congratulate Vaughn Custom Sports and Detroit Sewn for stepping up to produce the protective equipment which is vital for the health and safety of our health professionals, first responders, other hospital staff and the patients they serve,” Coulter said. “These grants will allow Vaughn and Detroit Sewn to increase production of gowns and masks and bring back employees who had been laid off because of the pandemic.”

Vaughn, owned by Michael and Arlene Vaughn, manufactures protective equipment such as catch gloves, blockers, leg pads, pants, chest protectors and sticks used by professional and amateur goalies throughout the world. They were awarded $50,000 to produce several thousand high quality protective gowns and caps a week. The grant allows Vaughn to bring back employees and dramatically increase production.

“We are very appreciative of the grant funding and we are already putting the funds to use in securing additional materials and equipment to increase production as well as working with Dan Radomski, a board member on the PPE grant from Oakland County, for the additional PPE items,” says Arlene Vaughn. “We are grateful to be able to help out in these unprecedented times.”

Detroit Sewn of Pontiac received a “Saving Business, Saving Lives” award to manufacture masks for health care systems and first responders. (Photo courtesy of Detroit Sewn)

Detroit Sewn, owned by Karen Buscemi, was awarded $25,000. It began operations in downtown Pontiac in 2015. The company specializes in knitwear such as T-shirts, bags and other clothing items and is shifting production to making cotton fabric medical face masks for health care systems and first responders across the metro area. The grant will allow Detroit Sewn to invest in equipment and hire employees resulting in a significant increase in production.

Round one applicants were interviewed by a panel on Thursday and Friday. Sixty companies applied in the initial round. Those companies that did not receive grants today are still being considered for funding.

“These panelists are accomplished leaders in their respective fields,” Coulter said. “The work this panel does is so important to these businesses and ultimately the health care systems and first responders. I appreciate their willingness to share their expertise and give so freely of their time.”

Panel members were:

  • Manager Alain Piette, MI-SBTDC Technology Team
  • Dr. Carmine Jabri, co-founder of E.M.M.A. International Consulting Group, Inc.
  • Jaideep Rajput, leader of identification, protection, commercialization and management of Beaumont’s intellectual property portfolio
  • Michael W. Long, Ph.D., executive director of Oakland University Mobilization Zone
  • Julie Killian, CPA, Clayton & McKervey
  • Dan Radomski, director, Lawrence Technological University Centrepolis Accelerator

County Commissioners Janet Jackson, D-Southfield; William Miller, D-Farmington; and Michael Spisz, R-Oxford, participated in an advisory role.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Sewn)

A business applying for a grant must demonstrate the ability to execute the project during the COVID-19 pandemic. Eligible use of funds includes:

  • Procuring necessary equipment to manufacture supplies
  • Logistics, shipping, technology upgrades
  • Other costs related to operationalizing new product lines.

Companies interested in applying funding have until April 23 to complete the process at: