In the Santa Teresa industrial park, Jerry Pacheco heads the Border Industrial Association, or BIA, which recruits and works with 62 companies and some 5,000 employees.
But lately, he’s been feeling a little shady, having become the provider of PPE, the honcho of hand sanitizer and the mask man as the businesses and plants are ramping up for a restart – COVID-19 notwithstanding.
“When this whole crisis started, the first thing we scrambled to figure out was if we are essential,” Pacheco said. “Our businesses are essential, and almost everyone is because they’re making the raw materials that eventually go into ventilators, medical equipment and foodstuffs.
“You can imagine, we make plastics, metals, packaging here. We have Sterigenics that sterilizes all that stuff. When we came out of the gate and this crisis really heated up, one of the things that was very tough was finding PPE to safely have employees continue with their jobs.”
So Pacheco took on the role of procurer of everything from sanitizers to masks from Asia, Argentina and, of course, Mexico.
“When we can find bleach, we bring it in, too,” he said. “We warehouse the stuff and let our membership know what we have, and they can come and get it,” he said. “We don’t charge a nickel more than what our association buys it for.
“It’s really a service for our membership, so we can keep their employees safe and keep them going.”
They’ve not only procured personal protective equipment to satisfy companies’ needs but are furnishing them to the Navajo Nation as well.
“We sent 6,000 masks last week and this week to the hospitals and clinics on the Navajo Nation,” Pacheco said on Friday. “I just feel like a delivery boy/tracker because I’m procuring this stuff. Sometimes I deliver it in parking lots and sometimes they come over here to get it.
“Sometimes, I feel like, I shouldn’t say this, but hey, I feel like I’m dealing in illegal things. They ask, ‘Hey, you got any hand sanitizer?’ and I tell them, ‘Yeah, man, I got some. How much do you want? I got five-gallon pails if you want.’”
And, sometimes, he said, sources swear him to secrecy.
“I say, ‘Don’t worry, I’m not going to blow your cover.’ I mean yesterday, I got 10 gallons of hand sanitizer from one source and 15 cases from another and both of them were like, ‘We want to help you and everything, but … you know.’
“It’s almost like I’m in the drug business or something.”
Now, two plants that had furloughed all of their workers are getting ready to open – one this week and the other on June 1, Pacheco said.
When that happens, he said, they’ll have everything they need when it comes to PPE.
Email El Paso Inc. reporter David Crowder at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (915) 534-4422, ext. 122 and (915) 630-6622.