FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - North Texas natives John Bielamowicz, and David Baillargeon have spent nearly the last year of their lives manufacturing American-made N95 masks.
Their company, United States Mask Co., doesn't use any foreign products and are made and fulfilled at their own factory in Fort Worth.
"We realized how dependent we were on foreign countries, especially China for this stuff. The masks themselves, the raw material for the masks, we don't make a whole lot of it in this country," said Bielamowicz, co-founder of United States Mask Co.
It took them nearly nine months to create the N95, with hopes and dreams it would help supply Tarrant County with proper PPE.
"It was like yelling into an abyss," Bielamowicz said.
The problem was their mask, though federally approved, wasn't one of the six brands, four of which were Chinese, Tarrant County was accepting bids from.
"We were immediately disqualified because Tarrant County was looking for some specific models that were made in China. We are not, we are made in Fort Worth, USA," Bielamowicz said.
Bielamowicz and his partner spoke up at the next Tarrant County Commissioners meeting in early January, where Judge Glen Whitley asked questions and openly supported the small business owners.
Ultimately, today, Judge Whitley told CBS 11 News it came down to price and specific criteria that left the United States Mask Co., beat.
"All six of them met the specifications that they were looking for. Next time United's will be tested too, then they'll also be listed and I encouraged public health to do that because I would like to have local folks in there, give them a chance at the bid," Whitley said.
It's left the local owners looking for business elsewhere, and realizing a bigger problem with government contracting.
"If you want that store to be there, you better shop there. And I think that if Americans want to have things like N95's here, we have to vote with our wallets, we have to demand it of our policymakers," Bielamowicz said.
The company has found recent success in selling their N95 respirator masks in smaller quantities online for North Texas families. They say they'll have more up and available on their website to order next week.
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