Updated: Mar 15
American Surgical Masks Company (ASM) held their grand opening at THAP’s 5508 on Wednesday 3-10. CEO Derrick Blue of Tampa Hillsborough Action Plan (THAP) opened the program with a brief history of the company and then introduced Kalu Watanabe, co-founder of ASM. He spoke on all the reasons the company could have failed, from missing shipments to lost trucks, to of course, operating during a pandemic. He was followed by the ever so smooth CEO of ASM, Matt Brandman who was introduced to the campus by THAPs CEO, Charles Young. When he visited the campus, he immediately fell in love with it and liked the vibe. He felt his employees would enjoy this environment, with the courtyard being a great place for lunch.
Orlando Gudes, councilman for District 5, spoke eloquently about the impact of ASM locating in his district and how the employment of his constituents has made a difference in their lives. In his introduction of Mayor Castor he talked about how great her administration was doing with developing new business in Tampa and the significance of ASM locating in East Tampa.
Mayor Jane Castor talked about how development and business stalled during the pandemic but was not the case here in Tampa. She spoke on the difficulty of staying in businesses during the pandemic as one thing but opening a business during these times is a true challenge. She added that ASM stepped up to the plate and they jumped the hurdles and weathered the storm. As a community partner, they provided over 200,000 masks to the Super Bowl, the volunteers to pass the masks out and successfully made the SuperBowl a safe environment. “The end result was the Super Bowl was not a super spreader,” said Mayor Castor.
The ribbon cutting ceremony went on without a hitch and afterwards a tour of the plant was conducted for the participants of the grand opening. All the participants were given head gear along with their masks to walk through the facility to see and understand the intricate moving parts needed to output a quality product.
ASM is a minority owned business located in an Opportunity Zone in a 90% African American community. Their staff includes 75% women and minorities, including management where the majority of the workers are local. Their pay is competitive, starting from $15 to $24 an hour and they presently employ almost 30 people. Their goal is to be a 100% American Made product and to set the standard for their industry as an example of social equity, diversity and inclusion.