Officials with New Balance said Thursday the Boston-based manufacturer of athletic footwear and apparel expects to begin producing personal protective equipment in Maine to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Representatives from New Balance said the company’s factories in Norridgewock and Lawrence, Massachusetts, will begin producing a general-use face mask to help meet the urgent demand for personal protective equipment.

The New Balance factory in Norridgewock, along with the company’s factory in Lawrence, Mass., is poised to begin manufacturing face masks if federal officials approve the company’s prototype for use by frontline medical professionals dealing with the coronavirus.

New Balance has a factory on Depot Street in Norridgewock and a factory store in Skowhegan. The company announced last Friday it was working on a plan to produce the much-needed masks.

New Balance officials said that by mid-April, they hope to be producing as many as 100,000 masks per week between the factories in Maine and Massachusetts.

New Balance’s face mask design and materials are being assessed to ensure they meet standards set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and will result in a product “that can be confidently used by frontline medical staff.”

“We are coordinating efforts with our government officials and local medical institutions, as well as other U.S. consortiums and testing facilities,” New Balance officials said in a prepared statement.

“This is to help us best understand where our current face mask design fits their supply-and-demand needs. This is not a commercial opportunity.”

New Balance officials said the company will offer break-even pricing and might pursue donations to help with the costs to produce the masks.

“New Balance is approaching distribution through a combination of direct medical facility coordination and communication at the Massachusetts and Maine state levels,” the company said in its statement.

New Balance is also working on collaborative opportunities and on prototypes to produce other personal protective equipment, including gowns and foot coverings.

“We are proud to combine the industrial R&D expertise and innovative thinking of our associates with our domestic manufacturing resources to work to solve new and extraordinary product challenges,” New Balance officials said.

The company’s announcement about mask production followed an announcement March 24 that the New Balance Foundation had given $2 million to help support local, regional and global communities amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We firmly believe it is our civic duty to support our communities in need around the world,” said Anne Davis, managing trustee at New Balance Foundation.

“As we witness the growing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are inspired by the acts of humanity, kindness and compassion that have emerged in support of one another during this health crisis.”

Representatives at New Balance were not able to confirm Thursday what the mask production will mean for employment at the Norridgewock factory.


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