ASHLAND, Ohio -- When Brooks Hull joined his brother, Larry, to form Bay Corp. in Westlake 40 years ago, they knew they were pioneers in the then-emerging field of fittings and connections for the medical gas industry.
Hull, an Ashland University alumnus (1970) and a former trustee, took the reins of the company after his brother’s untimely death in 1985 and led it through years of sustained growth before selling it in 2013 to his nephew, his brother’s son (also named Larry). Now retired as chairman, Hull still maintains an office at the company headquarters.
Over time, the company has expanded its customer base into the international market and maintained an employee base of about 35-40 people.
Then, Hull said, they started hearing about a new virus. “Soon after COVID-19 became known,” he said, “you were reading articles about the number of people being put on ventilators.”
Within weeks, Bay Corp.’s phone started ringing … and ringing, and ringing, and ringing. The company produces a critical ventilator hose assembly, which helps to connect the wall outlet to the supply-side inlet of the machine. In a world badly in need of ventilators, that assembly was crucial.
Within a few weeks, Bay Corp. was ramping up production, which also meant ramping up employee numbers. A company with maybe 40 employees working 35-hour weeks had to shift to double that number working two 10-hour shifts on weekdays and an additional shift on Saturday.
Many of those new temporary workers were local people who had ironically lost work because of the pandemic. Word of job openings spread largely by mouth, though Hull said the company also worked with an employment agency to fill out the shifts.
And with more employees came more product and with more product, more sales – more than double the pre-pandemic volume. “Our building is just chock full of inventory,” he said, “and we’re still ramping up production.” And while customers want immediate delivery, Bay Corp.’s products also must get a stamp of approval from regulators, which slows the process a bit.
It is, of course, a temporary boom. Hull said he has heard from three other AU alums at the company, Mark Altstadt (BS ’90), Justin Winkler (BS ’11) and Brian Forgach (MBA ’12), that they expect orders to stay at the current level until February of 2021, until the worldwide supply is replenished. Still, he said, “I’m happy we’re able to fill a need in the marketplace” during some troubled times. The work is good, not only for the company, but for the employees, especially those who were able to find work during layoffs and downsizings.
For now, Bay Corp. is doing its part, Hull said, under the watchful eye of its third owner in 40 years. His nephew, he said, “is just doing a bang-up job.”
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