Street Talk: In good hands

Water, water everywhere.
A Haviland employee based in the Kalamazoo facility fills large containers with hand sanitizer. The manufacturing location was retooled last spring to accommodate production of the hand sanitizer. Courtesy Haviland

One local company believes plenty of good things are still happening in West Michigan even during the pandemic.

In early spring, Grand Rapids-based Haviland Products Company began producing and donating hand sanitizer to community organizations during a nationwide shortage. Soon, others could purchase the product in commercial-sized containers, up to 330 gallons, to be repackaged or distributed.

Today, that lineup includes a 1-gallon jug, available four per case.

Haviland guarantees its hand sanitizer is safe and free of methanol contamination, as well as offering an 80% alcohol content, well above the 60% FDA requirement.

“In March, as the pandemic spread stateside, we watched our customers’ businesses come to a halt. At the same time, people could not get hand sanitizer,” said Jim Knape, senior sales director for Haviland. “We had access to the raw materials needed to make the hand sanitizer and the ability to retool part of our manufacturing facility in Kalamazoo.”

Since then, more than 13,000 gallons have been delivered to local nonprofits and more than 70,000 gallons have been sold direct to customers, distributors and repackaging businesses.

“Our first priority was to help those in need of protection from COVID-19 but lacking the necessary resources,” said Meg Post, Haviland CFO. “We identified organizations in West Michigan that had no access to a federal stockpile or national procurement organizations. EMS, fire, hospice, retirement centers, day cares, shelters and similar organizations could benefit from our donation.”

The contributions did not go unnoticed. Organizations such as The Salvation Army, Every Woman’s Place in Muskegon, Heather Hills in Forest Hills, Harbor Hospice in Muskegon, Arbor Circle in Grand Rapids and the Muskegon 60th District Court all wrote to share their thanks.

“These organizations and others like them are the true heroes. They are the ones who deserve our thanks. Haviland is honored to have been able to help during this critical chapter,” Post said.

Haviland’s Havaclean Hand Sanitizer-E soon will be available on Amazon.

“If you told me in January that our company would be manufacturing, donating, distributing and selling hand sanitizer, I would say you had us confused with another industry. Now, it’s becoming a segment of our growth strategy, along with alcohol-free hand sanitizer and various hard surface disinfectants,” Knape said.

As the company looks to expand its hand sanitizer product line, members of the Haviland team continue to pursue regulatory requirements for its products. Haviland is using its existing R&D facility to test and examine the quality of raw materials, as well as the manufactured product.

Staying afloat

Swimming pool cleaners are seeing a surge in business as one of the handful of sectors thriving under COVID-19.

Virginia Beach-based pool cleaning and maintenance franchise Pool Scouts has its eye trained on Grand Rapids, citing a 200% increase in demand from homeowners for new swimming pool construction in the area.

In a previous Business Journal interview, Colliers West Michigan noted retail businesses like automotive dealers are thriving under COVID-19 as people are staying home and spending their would-be vacation money instead on at-home luxuries. Pool Scouts President Michael Wagner said the same is true for swimming pools.

“It’s going gangbusters, and the service side of the business has been fortunate to see great organic growth,” Wagner said. “Many people are home, and the pool is a part of the home, so they’re utilizing it now more than ever.”

Wagner said Pool Scouts has a targeted approach to opening franchises in new markets. The company has 22 franchisees in nine states, with the northernmost one being in Ohio. Grand Rapids will be the company’s first foray into Michigan.

Pool Scouts defines target customers as single-family homeowners with in-ground pools and a total income of about $75,000 per year. The company identified over 8,000 of these target households in the greater Grand Rapids area, with a tight concentration of these homes by ZIP code.

In the 49534 ZIP code, which covers parts of Grand Rapids and Walker, Pool Scouts noted a concentration of about 287 target homes out of a total of 9,424 households in the area, as well as an average household income of $84,016 per year.

Wagner added the higher concentration of pool ownership tends to happen in areas where people already are near bodies of water.

“Certainly — and this is true across the U.S. — when you’re around water, you have homes with pools,” Wagner said. “We see that with Lake Norman in North Carolina, lakes in Dallas; the water tends to (prompt) people to have pools, and higher-end homes as well.”

Those interested in franchising opportunities can contact Pool Scouts at or (844) 407-2688.

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