By Stacey Baca

CHICAGO (WLS) — The pandemic has canceled concerts, festivals and big events. People in the business say the entertainment industry was the first to close and will be the last to reopen.

But one local company that depends on entertainment has figured out a way to survive and it involves helping fight COVID-19.

Megastars like Justin Timberlake, Shania Twain and local legend Buddy Guy all do business with a local company in west suburban Wood Dale.

“It’s a small industry. It’s big but small at the same time,” said Tom Heslin, the general manager of sales and design at MT Custom Cases. “Everybody knows each other when it comes down to it.”

MT Custom Cases is known for building cases for the entertainment industry, but the pandemic has since silenced concerts and venues across the city.

“When the lockdown first started, I’m seeing people post on Facebook, ‘I’m so bored. I’m sitting around,'” Heslin said. “How are you bored? I’m busy than ever. We’re trying to save the ship here. I think we’re doing an okay job of that.”

When everything came to a halt, Heslin said the company had to improvise.

“We started trying to think of ways to keep producing, keep people working,” he said.

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So the case company came up with an idea to add UV lighting, which is known to kill microorganisms, inside the cases.

“Why don’t we make something mobile, something that can go on the road? Something that could be on the side of a stage,” Heslin said. “Microphones in there, headsets, sporting equipment, basketballs, baseball bats, gloves. All kinds of things can be put in these cabinets and sanitized in a matter of minutes.”

The Centers for Disease Control says it’s not known whether UV light is effective against COVID-19, but it does kill viral, bacterial and fungal microorganisms.

And it seems the entertainment world is interested. Heslin said the company’s UV cases are being used in the NBA and WNBA bubbles. Even MTV’s Video Music Awards used them a few weeks ago.

Outside of those big events, Heslin said they are also being used locally as well.

“I’m seeing sales in schools and colleges. Adlai Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, and colleges across the country for their performing arts departments and their sporting departments,” he said.

Because UV light is harmful to the skin and eyes, there’s a UV protected window to check if the case is on or off. As soon as the case opens, Heslin said the light automatically goes off.

The new idea during the pandemic will hopefully carry the founded more than 20 years ago through these unprecedented times.

“Everybody is pivoting. It’s become cliche at this point, but it’s true and you have to,” Heslin said. “We’re not going to sit around and wait for something to happen. Make it happen. So I think we have.”

Heslin said the UV project has kept the company moving forward, at least for right now.

A large case will cost about $3,000. A smaller case, like a suitcase, runs about $1,450.

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