Jim Taggart, Lawrence Tech ’94, is not usually in the business of supporting the world’s health care workers. Unless they are driving a Ford, Nissan, Honda or Toyota on their way to complete their life-saving work, Jim’s work and theirs wouldn’t have a reason to intersect.
Taggart has spent more than 25 years in the automotive industry working in a number of capacities, from engineer to a vice president at Sumitomo Electric Wiring Systems, a company that builds wiring harnesses and electric wiring components for automobiles.
Like a lot of people, work looks different for Taggart and his company as a result of the spread of COVID-19 and social distancing. “We were hit very hard by COVID-19,” said Taggert. “But I got a call from one of my sales guys who was meeting with Ford. Ford has been very public on building ventilators, so we thought that was the project, but they were actually trying to design a PAPR (powered air-purifying respirator) from scratch in a week and go to production.”
Taggart “took the reins” and worked with Ford to design the components for PAPRs, a type of personal protective equipment used to safeguard workers against contaminated air. These respirators have become critical in protecting healthcare workers as they treat those infected with COVID-19.
While any company and its employees would be happy to be working and conducting new business in such a time, Taggart is focused on the big-picture impact of his work.
“We understand the difficult situation and unprecedented time we’re in, and it had nothing to do with business — it had everything to do with helping.” Taggart said when discussing the opportunity to get approval from his executive management. “Everybody thought this was the right thing to do.”
Jim and his team were able to go from the design phase to production in only a number of weeks.
“I’m not in an industry that really can help. But here I am, with an opportunity to help. It was more about me volunteering my time to develop some quick solutions,” Taggart said. “It could be one of my loved ones out there or friends that are affected. I know people who were in hospitals that have been infected, and if they’d had these respiratory units, you know, maybe they wouldn’t.”
Taggart served his Michigan Theta chapter of SigEp at Lawrence Tech as a two-term president during his time as an undergraduate. He says it has molded him into who he is today and prepared him to act and do the right thing during this time.
“We have the opportunity a lot of times to help our own brothers, but this is much bigger than us individually, to some extent, much bigger than the fraternity,” he said. “But the fraternity has molded us to be Balanced Men and this is the perfect opportunity to think about others and not be selfish. To do the right thing. Do what you can to help.”
If you know of another SigEp who is fighting COVID-19 in any way and would like to recognize them, please submit this form.