MONTREAL -- Machines are whirring away in a factory in an industrial section of Saint-Laurent. This factory didn’t even exist six months ago—it was a warehouse.

Now, it’s suddenly going to be one of the busiest in Quebec. It’s churning out surgical mask after surgical mask and aiming for 150 million a year under a 10-year federal contract awarded this spring.

“Since April, we got this building, bought the machines and airlifted the machines and brought them here,” said Ronald Reuben the CEO of Medicom, the company running the operation.

It’s an international manufacturer of personal protective equipment, one of the holy grails of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s based in Pointe-Claire.

But until now, it didn’t have a Canadian factory. All of a sudden, however, everything has changed, not just in Canada but in the countries where it used to operate.

“Many of our factories, globally, were taken over by local governments,” explained Reuben. “So we were left with very little supply for our existing customer base.” 

Of course, demand was skyrocketing at the same time.

It’s still not easy to ensure a consistently high output. Some materials are still in short supply, especially the filtering cloth used in surgical masks, which Reuben calls “liquid gold.”

It isn’t made anywhere in Canada, and its overall market price has jumped since the pandemic.

There have been other hurdles: Medicom needed to retrofit the 60,000-square-foot building with mask machines and a new ventilation system.

Eventually, there will be a total of 15 machines there, the company says. Medicom says it will eventually need 100 employees to operate at full capacity.

The contract’s dollar value hasn’t been made public. But if Medicom manages to hit its goal of 150 million pieces produced per year, it will become the country’s main PPE producer, said Reuben.

“It's quite significant... probably the largest here in Canada,” he said.

Still, the company won’t try to predict the future, because in a way it all comes down to what happens with COVID-19, said Medicom president Guillaume Laverdure.

“That's a very difficult projection, because it’s linked to the predictions, the forecast, of what's going to happen,” he said.

Watch the video above to see the full report from the factory.