Jonathan Bryd is someone hardly anyone has heard about. But he is one of the unsung heroes of COVID-19. Daniel M. Doriani tells the story in his excellent new book, Work That Makes a Difference (P&R, 2021):
Jonathan Byrd owns a firm that has no core business. He identifies businesses that have declined due to neglect, mismanagement, or lack of capital. Whether the field is transportation, manufacturing, real estate, or entertainment. Byrd invests funds and management skill to revive businesses that serve the public good. In January 2019, Byrd acquired a small firm that manufactured ventilators. Byrd was ready to sell it for a profit when the coronavirus pandemic struck. Since that virus often attacks lungs, the market for ventilators exploded. His facility was set up to manufacture several hundred ventilators per year. Would he be able to make 40,000 in a few months? Byrd knew his team had unique abilities; would it be right to sell his company if it could help solve the corona virus crisis?
Byrd and his partners decided to take a risk. To increase productivity, they changed their leadership team, multiplied their staff, poured capital into additional equipment, entered into uncertain purchase agreements with federal and state governments, and leased a mammoth plant that had recently stopped making auto parts. In six months, they manufactured and shipped 40,000 ventilators and sent them all over the world.
In the end, Byrd’s group made a profit, but they gave it away, lest they profit from a disaster. Looking back, Byrd says, “We had an opportunity to do a nearly perfect thing. We faced an economic risk and abandoned hope of profitability so we could help people. We decided to make and ship ventilators as long as there was a need or until we ran out of money. Everyone believes they will help their friends when they are in need. We helped strangers—people we will never meet”.
Byrd’s example is inspiring. Not just for his skill in business, but particularly his generosity to not “profit from a disaster”. While some businesses are making a lot of money during this time—while many other small businesses are going bankrupt—Byrd has refused to take advantage of the situation. This is a good news story that needs to be told.
Not all heroes wear capes. And not all heroes make masks. But in the providence of God, Jonathan Bryd has provided one of the most important medical devices the world needs right now. And the fact that he has gone about it in such a servant-hearted fashion deserves to be celebrated.