Taxpayers sank almost $100 million into a COVID glove factory that never opened

April 24, 2024

Baltimore Banner: Taxpayers sank almost $100 million into a COVID glove factory that never opened

The promises echoed into a massive warehouse once used by Bethlehem Steel: $350 million in public and private investment, 2,000 new jobs and the return of manufacturing to Sparrows Point within a year.

A piece of blue surgical gloves.
A piece of blue surgical gloves. Source: Getty Images

It was March 2022, the tail end of the Omicron wave of COVID-19 in the U.S., and a company called United Safety Technology hosted local politicians and federal officials at a groundbreaking of its state-of-the-art nitrile glove factory — jumpstarted by a $96.1 million investment from the federal government.

Two years later, not a single glove has rolled off the line.

The factory sits unfinished, the feds are distancing themselves, and the CEO of the New York-based company says he needs more money…

There might be a better way to do this, said Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First, a watchdog organization that researches government subsidies. Rather than focusing on the supply of gloves, LeRoy said, the government could create demand.

That would mean strictly enforcing that federal agencies buy American-made gloves, he said, ensuring a small but steady demand for a domestic industry. To LeRoy, that makes more sense than trying to subsidize a globally competitive manufacturing industry.

“You can’t defy gravity,” LeRoy said. “If you have really cheap imports coming in, I can understand why this strategy didn’t work.”

Read the full story at the Baltimore Banner.