Local manufacturer successfully adapted to unique working conditions during pandemic

Deb Moldaschel
Redwood Falls Gazette

This is the fifth in a series of articles about how the pandemic has affected Redwood area businesses and organizations. This week we circle back and hear from another manufacturing business—Altimate Medical and Active Aid. The Gazette is working with Anne Johnson, Executive Director, Redwood Area Chamber & Tourism, to present this information.

“The Redwood Area is a great place to build your career and raise a family,” said Johnson. “A popular tagline in recent years is: ‘Live, Work, and Play in the Redwood Area,’ because the community has many amenities that attract people to an area, including good jobs. 

“One industry that is pretty diverse in the Redwood Area is manufacturing. Our Redwood Area manufacturers provide great jobs to our community members and enthusiastically support local causes and events. These companies take ‘teamwork’ very seriously. Although COVID-19 affects all businesses differently, our manufacturers have continued to adapt and create the products people around the nation depend on.”

Altimate Medical Holdings, Inc. (AMHI), designs and manufactures differentiated medical equipment that optimizes treatment outcomes and maximizes the health and wellbeing of the end-users. Since its founding in 1987, Altimate Medical, founded and based in Morton, and its EasyStand brand, has led the standing industry with unsurpassed technology.

Pictured is Altimate Medical’s famous EasyStand chair—people with disablities, from all over the world, use this famous brand in the standing industry.

Paul F. Hickey, President/CEO, said his role as President and CEO began in February of 2020, just before COVID-19 became an issue across the U.S. and for Altimate Medical Holdings—Altimate Medical (Morton), ActiveAid (Redwood Falls), and Medical Positioning (Kansas City, Kansas). 

“While this was not seen by everyone as an ideal time for me to join the company,” said Hickey, “managing the impact of COVID-19 soon after my arrival allowed me to jump into a new business and work closely with the senior team and other employees to address what was an unknown business and health risk.”

Hickey said COVID-19 had a dramatic impact on their business in the first and second quarter of 2020. 

Hickey explained Altimate and ActiveAid manufacture durable medical equipment for individuals with disabilities (e.g. cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury) and are deemed critical manufacturers by state government. 

“Our primary referral sources for sales are physical therapists and occupational therapists who became inaccessible during the April 2020 timeframe due to the COVID-19 spread risk,” Hickey said. “As these clinicians and their patients became more comfortable with managing COVID-19 in April through June, they began to resume practice and our sales demand began to rebound. All said, as 2020 came to a close, our business was able bounce back and sales remained essentially flat as compared to 2019 sales.”

Hickey is proud of the company’s team and how they responded to the challenge.

“First and foremost, throughout all of the pandemic’s uncertainties, we pulled together as a team in 2020 and rallied to protect each other from COVID-19 and worked hard to deliver our products to help those with disabilities,” he said.  “From an employee perspective, we worked quickly in 2020 to ensure our workforce was safe by adhering as much as possible to CDC guidelines.”

Hickey said they won the Governor’s Safety Award in 2020 and their safety committee worked hard to create a Pandemic Preparedness Plan to help manage any scenario throughout the year. 

“As an example, we made changes to create as much distance as possible between employees while at work, put up barriers to separate many workspaces, as well as allowed people who could work from home to do so,” Hickey said. “Admittedly, some of the precautions I implemented early to prevent the spread of COVID-19, I now realize were overboard and unnecessary, but I had only the safety of the entire workforce on my mind. In hindsight, I think most all employees feel blessed to have remained employed and safe at work — others were not as lucky.”

As a result of COVID-19, Altimate and ActiveAid tested their adaptability as an organization and their ability to work creatively. 

“There are several examples where we problem solved and worked remotely over video conference meetings, using Zoom or Teams,” said Hickey. “I personally participated in video calls with multiple countries around the world and calls with over 100 participants. In all of my years, face-to-face in-office meetings were the most effective meetings to have. Now, we have proven that we can work effectively together utilizing technology to augment our communication with each other and suppliers.”

Asked about future plans, Hickey said, “Our 2021 outlook is fantastic with high demand for our products and a promising pipeline of new products ahead. So our plans are to grow our business and to also continue to take care of the employees who make Altimate and ActiveAid a special place to work. 

“Likewise, we have just launched our employee Community Giving Program to encourage our employees to give back to the community we live in, either financially or with their time and talent. I am excited about us having a meaningful impact in the Redwood area. 

“Like most people, I am looking forward to also celebrating with the team this fall as the vaccine adoption increases and we can gather together without concerns of COVID-19. Whether it’s a company picnic, trip to see the Twins live, or some other event, we will all appreciate these gatherings a bit more going forward with COVID-19 in our rear view mirror!”