It’s a proposition that no business owner, worker or consumer wants to hear: “your money or your life — or at least
The opening of our economy is essential to survival, but doing so safely also will save countless lives. Fortunately, Akron-based Gojo Inds. is helping businesses reopen while keeping workers and consumers much safer. It’s a company that is saving lives not only in Northeast Ohio, but also around the world.
“We recognize the tremendous responsibility we have to help businesses welcome back employees and customers with confidence, and yet we must also ensure Purell products remain available on the front lines,” says Carey Jaros, president and CEO of Gojo Inds. “Through tireless work and creative thinking by our Gojo team members, partnerships with our suppliers and distributors, and a bold expansion plan, we are producing two times the amount of Purell products than we did last year.”
Today, Gojo’s Purell brand is as recognizable in hand sanitizing as Kleenex is to tissues. However, the company actually has its roots in World War II rubber production.
As a supervisor in one of Akron’s many rubber manufacturing plants, co-founder Goldie Lippman was concerned when she saw workers dipping their hands in chemicals, such as benzene and kerosene, to remove graphite and carbon black used in rubber production. After the war, she teamed up with her husband, Jerry, who visited Kent State and found Professor Clarence Cook. Together, they created a one-step, wash-off hand cleaner called Gojo.
In 1988, the company created Purell to help reduce the spread of germs
in health care and food service operations. After several more innovations, including wall-mounted hand sanitizer stations in 2006 and an advanced formula of Purell in 2011, the brand is the world’s most recognized and trusted hand sanitizer, with a product that kills 99.99 percent of germs that cause illnesses.
While Gojo has a rich, storied corporate history, the company’s most exciting chapter is next. It hired nearly 300 workers earlier this year to keep up with demand, bringing its workforce in Ohio to more than 1,800. Despite a product shortage caused by a dramatic increase in demand, Gojo teamed up with Lubrizol to donate more than 16,000 liters of Purell to Northeast Ohio hospitals. Then in June, Gojo announced a major expansion, including a new production facility in Maple Heights and a 430,000-square-foot distribution center in Navarre, which is in Stark County.
The new production facility on Lee Road in Maple Heights will produce Purell Surface Spray, launched in 2016 and has since won numerous awards for its combination of being a no-rinse product with the lowest possible toxicity, while effectively killing bacteria, mold, mildew, fungi and dozens of viruses. The Maple Heights production facility is expected to open in early 2021.
Gojo also is revamping production lines at its Wooster manufacturing facility and plans to add 200 jobs during the next 18 months, partnering with the OhioMeansJobs program in Cuyahoga County and JobsOhio to hire local and diverse talent. Its goal is achieve a minimum of 25 percent minority employees in the hiring process, says Jaros.
“Gojo is an Ohio-grown company whose products, including its Purell products, are helping us combat the pandemic,” says Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine. “These new investments demonstrate the confidence Gojo has in Ohio’s talent, which is hard at work producing and distributing critical Purell products used worldwide.”
“We are excited to support the expansion of Gojo Inds. into Cuyahoga County that will bring this essential business here to our county,” says Ted Carter, chief economic development and business officer of Cuyahoga County. “This investment will bring 100 additional high-quality manufacturing jobs to Maple Heights, providing much-needed jobs and income to that municipality. We are very pleased that Gojo has committed to hiring a diverse and local workforce.”
These new developments will position Gojo as a world leader, but it all came about through intuitive planning, which started well before the pandemic ever hit.
“We have a Gojo team that constantly monitors public health situations around the world that can impact demand, including emerging pathogens,” says Jaros. “That team became aware of the developing situation in December, and we activated our demand surge preparedness team at that time. We significantly increased production in January, when global demand for our products began to increase. We have been running at full capacity and bringing additional capacity online as quickly as possible ever since.”
Even with its advanced planning, Gojo faced challenges. “The enormous demand for hand sanitizer caused by this ongoing pandemic has resulted in shortages and outages of critical components, including bottles and caps,” says Jaros. “Through creative sourcing partnerships, Gojo is filling nontraditional bottles with Purell hand sanitizer with emergency response labels. These creative sourcing partnerships have helped the company deliver substantially more Purell products to both support the front lines and the reopening of businesses and public places.
“For a short time, supporting reopening of the economy and front-line workers means there will be less product availability other places, including on retail shelves and online,” adds Jaros. “But the steps we are taking, including very significant capital investment, will dramatically expand our capacity.”
The two new facilities bring the company’s Ohio operations up to four locations, including those in Cuyahoga Falls and Wooster. The headquarters remain in Akron. Gojo employs more than 2,500 team members around the globe, with several manufacturing facilities in France.
“We believe the world will forever be changed by this pandemic, and we see this translating to a sustained increase in awareness of the importance of safe and effective hygiene practices,” says Jaros. “This will result in an ongoing, heightened demand.”