CARPENTERSVILLE, Ill. – With manufacturing companies getting back to work Friday, WGN received an inside look at one that’s been operating during the pandemic.
Otto Engineering is located in a historic Kane County building that dates back to the 1860s. The now-restored brick buildings used to be home to Illinois Iron and Bolt and Star Manufacturing.
“They later combined in the early 1900’s. They were a foundry and blacksmith shop, they made tools for the farmers today,” said owner Tom Roeser. “We manufacture in the same building.”
Tom Roeser’s father bought the dilapidated property in the 1970s and later restored it.
The company, which employs 550 people, was deemed an essential business and has been operating since the coronavirus pandemic began.
It makes parts for respirators and accessories for two-way radios.
“Soon after the shutdown, we received a request for 2,000 accessories from the Capitol police,” Roeser said.
Although employees have been busy on the production line, there have been some major changes on the job.
“It was a little scary, we weren’t sure what to expect. Fear of the unknown. But working here, I feel pretty comfortable,” said engineer David McGrath. “Everyone took it seriously.”
Tom Roeser sent all of his employees home that could work remotely. The company also propped open doors to avoid people touching handles.
Out of all of his employees, five have tested positive for coronavirus.
“Our deal is if we find someone we think is sick,” said Roeser. “We send the entire production line home.”
In the five cases, Roeser said they were isolated and spread out.
As manufacturing comes back Friday, face masks, temperature checks, touch less water fountains and disinfecting stations are included in the governor’s guidelines.
Employees like Maria Quintana, who has worked at the factory for 26 years, said they are grateful to have been able to keep earning a paycheck.
“I’m very thankful for me and my family I have a job and continued working,” Quintana said.