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A Magical Moment at Abram’s Nation

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Every once in a while, there is a magical moment that washes away the grinding reality of partisan bickering, a divided legislature, and a gridlocked Congress. For me, that moment was March 8 at MBA member Abram’s Nation facility tour.

Rose Morris, Abram’s president and founder, agreed to host the Allegheny County House Democratic Delegation. The purpose was to increase their understanding of how small manufacturers operate and their challenges.

Abram’s Nation is an exceptional small business. It produces “Unique Solutions for the Special Needs Community.” It sells the Safety Sleeper and other products domestically and all over the world,
and was named the Small Business Administration’s 2017 National Exporter of the Year.

Morris and her husband, Jeff, invented the Safety Sleeper out of necessity for their disabled toddler son, now a teen, who would often hop out of bed and wander at night, courting danger. The mesh sleeping tent kept him contained, secure and safe.

Representative Arvind Venkat, District 30 (Allegheny), is Morris’s PA representative. It was their first time meeting. The representative is an exceptional lawmaker. He is Harvard educated and a graduate of Yale Medical School. He previously worked in the Emergency Room at Allegheny General Hospital and continues to work some weekends. Venkat serves on every committee in the PA House that is related to health care.

I’ve met him in his district office twice and am always impressed by his knowledge of government and legislation even though he is a newcomer and now running for his second two-year term in office. He told me the number of people who make minimum wage — 66,000 in PA — and on another occasion answered some detailed questions on PA’s complex benefit system. He describes himself as a Democrat who resides in the middle.

The “magical moment” for me was seeing and hearing Morris and Representative Venkat talk to each other. For over an hour, they walked around the facility, stopping at each station. Morris explained and Venkat listened, responded and questioned. As a medical doctor, he has some knowledge of those disabled by autism, and was absorbed and fascinated by Rose, Abram’s Nation and its staff.

Rose Morris is like a fountain; stories and technical equipment specs pour out. She and her staff have been producing the Safety Sleeper and other products for the disabled for 15 years. She has dealt firsthand with many families whose children struggle with disabilities and she makes it a point to clearly understand their needs. Her engagement with and enthusiasm for her business and “families” are heartfelt and contagious, illustrated by the photos of children and families lining the foyer.

Part of any facility tour is always dedicated to a policy discussion to uncover barriers to growth.

Morris needs more space and will solve that by adding alternative shifts of workers. That means she will have the additional expense of increased wages to attract workers to a later shift. She has never paid minimum wage.

She and client families struggle with Medicaid and insurance companies for coverage and payment for the tents. It is always a fight. Medicaid does not always consider the tents a necessity and prioritizes other items.

Workforce is a problem. The production bottleneck is the sewing of the tents. She at times uses Indeed, Craig’s List and referrals and claims she can teach anyone to sew.

Transportation is an occasional problem. The MBA provided a contact for the Southwestern Planning Commission’s CommuteInfo program.

Regarding regulations, Morris must comply with the FDA’s seven zones of entrapment which is based off hospital beds.

If you would like to host a facility tour or have a private discussion of your business issues and innovations, email me at eileenanderson@mbausa.org.

Eileen Anderson is the director of Government Relations at the Manufacturer & Business Association. Contact her at 412/805-5707 or eileenanderson@mbausa.org.