For our team at IBVI, 2020 started as expected—with government market conditions continuing to be very competitive. We expected legislative hurdles, but we didn’t know that COVID-19 would ultimately turn our federal marketplace upside down. And the long-term impacts of this global pandemic are still not fully known as we head into 2021.
We are hopeful, first and foremost, that the new year will bring a vaccine that will be widely available and effective in controlling the virus. If that happens and our customers can safely come back to their places of work at full staff capacity, we could potentially see a significant return to more normal federal customer spending.
Because of the pandemic, the number of active-duty soldiers and civilian workers on military bases and in government offices across the country has been reduced dramatically. This impact has resulted in lost business for us in office supplies and other supply lines that we normally sell to our federal customers and that impact will likely extend into 2021.
COVID-19 has also affected our 2020 Blind Labor Growth goals as we have taken extra precautions when it comes to the safety of our staff. These precautions included temporary shutdowns of our West Allis, Janesville, and Charleston AFB Base Supply Center because of potential exposure to the virus. These shutdowns caused a decrease in work hours, with some of our staff opting to stay home to minimize the chances of exposure.
The global pandemic also affected travel, which altered some of our 2020 business plans. A large part of our Business Development process is in-person meetings with customers—especially for IBVI Spaces, MRO Tool, and IBVI Supply.
On a positive note, the response to the pandemic has also brought new business opportunities to us. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other related products have helped offset lost sales of office supplies and other supply lines that were noticeably down due to the overall effects of COVID-19. Beyond the business benefits, we’re proud to produce supplies that help our partners safely combat this pandemic. And so, while many of our IBVI business lines were struggling during the pandemic, our team—as a very agile and customer-focused organization—found other ways to create new business and increase customer loyalty that will serve us well in the future.
In the face of these challenges, we could have just decided to retreat and minimize our operations in 2020, citing COVID-19 as a very justifiable excuse. However, with safety and health in mind, our management team and employees have kept all of our operations open and productive throughout the year. Despite the virus’s ever-threatening twists and turns, we will continue our essential operations because they are a critical part of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Industrial Base.