Twin City Fan sending equipment to COVID-19 front lines

Mitchell branch manufacturing fans for emergency health facilities

Stephen Boyle, an employee at Twin City Fan in Mitchell, prepares to move one of the fan units that is scheduled to be shipped to Stony Brook University in New York for installation into a temporary medical facility that will help treat COVID-19 patients. The local branch of the company is expected to send out its first shipment of equipment Monday, with another twin order expected to depart the factory on Thursday. (Erik Kaufman / Republic)

The Mitchell branch of Twin City Fan is manufacturing air-moving equipment to be used in the fight against COVID-19 in New York.

Fan units built by the local plant are in the process of being prepared for shipping to Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, New York. There, the equipment will be installed as part of a makeshift medical facility that is being fashioned out of a basketball arena by the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

The company builds air-moving equipment of all sizes used around the country in dozens of industries, and its employees are used to pushing for quick turnaround times of custom orders, said Trinity Persful, vice president of marketing for Twin City Fan.

“They ordered on Wednesday, and the engineer and contractor that are making (the medical facilities) sent the plans and we quoted it,” Persful said. “And they’re shipping out Monday.”

The order came from the Corps of Engineers, which is in charge of constructing facilities to serve as temporary medical centers to treat patients suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic. The fans from Twin City Fan will be used to induce a negative-pressure environment at those facilities, meaning pressure inside the building will be lower than the pressure outside, causing air to be drawn into the facility when a door is opened. This helps keep air and disease-causing particles confined to the facility and reduces the spread of potential disease to the surrounding community.


The design for the fans came into the Mitchell plant last week, and Persful said employees dived headfirst into completing the order. The group went from receiving the new designs to having the order of seven large 445 fans and 12 slightly smaller 270 fans ready for shipping Monday morning.

“I’m not sure if it’s the Midwest work ethic, but everyone wants to jump in and buckle down and put their shoulder to the grindstone,” Persful said. “They’ve been nothing short of miraculous. They’re just getting it done.”

Patrick Campbell, plant manager for Twin City Fan in Mitchell, said the ability to adjust on the fly to important orders comes from an experienced work crew and a relatively new management system that improves efficiency. Their dedication to getting life-saving equipment out into the fight against COVID-19 was apparent even as expectations for the order were just at the preliminary stage.

“We had some recent data and I wanted to share it with (the employees) and talk about the Corps of Engineers and our opportunity to help save lives,” Campbell said. “From that moment on, when the first order came through for this first stuff heading to New York, I didn’t have to do anything. They had been watching the news and were engaged with what’s going on. They were seeing the effects on the rest of the country, and I didn’t need to say any more. They were dedicated.”

Persful said Twin City Fan, which employs more than 1,200 people with facilities in Minneapolis, Minnesota; Brookings, Mitchell, Aberdeen, Sioux Falls and Elkton, South Dakota; Covington, Ohio; and Pulaski, Tennessee, is also manufacturing equipment for other parts of the country, such as another temporary medical structure at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

The Mitchell plant employs about 230 people, but even at a time when the economy is in flux and some industries are struggling, Persful said Twin City Fan is actually looking for more workers to help fulfill orders.

“We’re hiring like crazy, we need people to join the team,” Persful said. “Everybody is pitching in and attendance has been really high, above normal, and everybody is joining in the fight and we need more people. We were in that position before any of this, and it’s even greater now.”

Campbell agreed about both the need for more employees and the quality of work and dedication being expressed by current employees. The fact that the equipment they are putting together is being used on the battlefield against COVID-19 is a strong motivator that highlights the importance of their work.


“The sensitivity toward COVID-19 has gotten a little more serious, and this past week is evidence of that. But we have employees who engage without even asking - they are going to finish that fan,” Campbell said.

Production of equipment used in the fight against COVID-19 is now being given priority by the company, Persful said, and he said the company is ready to do whatever it can to get their equipment into the hands of the people who need it.

“People on both coasts are depending on us, and the teamwork is unprecedented,” Persful said.

Erik Kaufman joined the Mitchell Republic in July of 2019 as an education and features reporter. He grew up in Freeman, S.D., graduating from Freeman High School. He graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1999 with a major in English and a minor in computer science. He can be reached at
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