From making custom prints for the event industry to medical tents for COVID-19 response efforts, TentCraft has retooled and revived its company to support frontline workers while keeping its workforce on the job through a global pandemic.

Based out of Traverse City, TentCraft had never manufactured products for the healthcare or medical industry. For 13 years, it has served the event industry, creating custom prints and tents for event booths and sports arenas.

Yet when COVID-19 began to spread throughout the nation, sporting events and business attraction opportunities began to postpone and cancel altogether. Refusing to consider shutting down its production altogether, the company recognized it needed to pivot quickly to stay afloat and keep its workers paid.

TentCraft President Matt Bulloch decided the company could re-tool its production to meet the high-demand for COVID-19 drive-through testing tents and pop-up mobile infirmaries. After rallying his team to rise to the occasion and support the growing global need for greater testing and screening efforts, the company realized it would need some additional support to make its efforts sustainable over the coming months.

It turned to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) which was mobilizing to provide vital economic support to businesses, entrepreneurs, workers and communities throughout the state, while enabling Michigan’s Arsenal of Innovation to support the frontlines in the fight against COVID-19. Through the MEDC’s Pure Michigan Business Connect COVID-19 Emergency Access and Retooling Grants program, TentCraft received a $75,000 grant to help it pivot to provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for frontline workers while continuing to pay its workers. As a result, TentCraft began supporting local installations while filling national orders, from pop-up tents for Munson Medical Center in Traverse City to shipping tents to hospital systems in Texas, Massachusetts, Illinois and Pennsylvania.

“Before this crisis, TentCraft had never manufactured products for the healthcare or medical industry. The MEDC PMBC COVID-19 Emergency Access and Retooling Grant is a crucial piece of our pivot toward these new products,” said Bulloch. “This support allows us to keep our people employed AND helps us to produce products that are sorely needed by the frontline healthcare workers.”

TentCraft began to receive a flood of information from healthcare systems and government bodies about COVID-19 needs. It had already successfully unlocked the healthcare market but working with government contracting systems required a different set of skills and resources. That’s what led TentCraft to turn to its local Procurement and Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) office for support.

Funded by MEDC, PTAC offices are stationed around the state to help Michigan businesses looking to compete for contracts with local, state and federal governments. PTAC offered TentCraft experienced and dedicated personnel to work closely with the company in finding potential government customers and helped it become more attractive for government sales, including by updating its web presence to feature more relevant search terms.

With the PTAC’s individualized and step-by-step support to help it navigate the government contracting process, TentCraft was able to secure various contracts for medical tents to support government efforts in the fight against COVID-19. This included six significant sales to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Army within three months.

“Targeting government procurement opportunities and government sales is completely new for us at TentCraft. Our local PTAC and MEDC have been invaluable in getting us up to speed to not only secure sales but build our credibility for supporting additional contracting needs in the future,” Bulloch said. “Our work with the PTAC and MEDC has shown us that there is a world of opportunity for us to seize, and we look forward to continuing to work with them to not only expand into these new markets, but help support economic growth and opportunities throughout the state as we all recover from COVID-19.”

Even as global efforts are underway to develop a future free of COVID-19, TentCraft’s future is strong with the experience and support it needs to continue securing government contracts and pursuing new markets. And despite any uncertainty that may lie ahead, the MEDC has a statewide network of support in place to help its business succeed in Michigan.

To learn more about the services available through MEDC, from PMBC to PTACs and more, go to michiganbusiness.org.