Small Minnesota businesses take on a vital and sometimes unnoticed role against COVID-19

Susie Jones reports in part three of our series on Minnesota's role in the fight against the pandemic
Vaccine Refrigeration
Vaccine refrigeration, something a local company is helping with due to the low temperatures the Pfizer vaccine must be kept at. Photo credit (Getty Images / Michael Ciaglo / Stringer)

As 2020 comes to an end, there is now some hope for a better year ahead with the COVID 19 vaccines having arrived. WCCO's Susie Jones is taking a look back this week at how Minnesota companies both large and small, have responded to the global pandemic.

Thermo King is a Bloomington based company, specializing in cold storage, critical in the distribution of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine which has to be kept at very cold temperatures.

Dwayne Cowan is Vice President of Sales.  He told WCCO, “It's a very complicated process right now with many different players, so you can see the pharmaceutical companies, you know government, logistic companies, transportation and others very involved in this supply chain. And our role is to safeguard that vaccine throughout the cold chain to arrive safely across the world. We do this by using our precise temperature control equipment, but also tracking that technology.”

The company was founded in Minneapolis back in the 1930's.

“The neat thing about it is that Frederick McKinley Jones was a self-taught African American inventor who patented the Refrigerate Transport unit in Minnesota. So today we're a global company, but we are based right here in Minnesota and the Bloomington area. Specifically, we have nearly 200 men and women who shared his passion around building innovative solutions.”

Thermo King is one of hundreds of Minnesota companies playing a vital role in the fight against COVID-19.

Shaye Mandle president of the medical alley association in Minnesota.

“I think everybody around the world right now sees 3M front center, EcoLab, Mayo Clinic, Medtronic and you know, their organizations that are leading the critical areas that are a part of managing the pandemic,” Mandle tells WCCO’s Susie Jones.

Mandle says they have more than 600 members.  Many of them are smaller but still part of the response.

“There's a company in Plymouth, Nonin Medical. They make pulse oximeters, tabletop and the things that go on your fingers. And obviously, as COVID started, I mean, they had increased orders of 3000% and they met that need to make sure that bedside and all the increase in ICU use that people had the basic things they needed on the corner of their desk.”

Mandle also shines a spotlight on a company in Southeastern Minnesota.

"Vyriad, which is a small company in Rochester, Minnesota recently released a new diagnostic test that measures the amount of neutralizing antibodies so you can really tell you know how immune someone has become,” Mandle explains.

It’s remarkable the amount of pride that the employees have, being a part of the life-saving efforts across the state. So many working 24/7 to come up with testing, treatment and ultimately vaccinating everyone so that we can hopefully, and finally, put an end to the pandemic.

Doctor Jakub Tolar, Dean of the University of Minnesota Medical School, says it best: “It's a moral pursuit, in search and quest of common good.”