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PPP Funding Paired with SBA Emerging Leader Experience Helps Air Quality Engineering, Inc. Pivot to Meet Navy Needs


Started in 1973 by the parents of Heidi Oas under the name SmokeMaster, Air Quality Engineering has a long history of focusing on the design, manufacture, and sale of air cleaners. Over the years, they have shifted from specifically focusing on machines that remove tobacco smoke in commercial applications to a more diverse portfolio of air cleaners for a wider customer base at home and abroad.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Air Quality Engineering, Inc. worked to increase production capacity for the XJ-2 Air Negative Pressure/HEPA filtration units for hospitals and the Navy. These HEPA-filtration/negative pressure units quickly convert ordinary patient care rooms into airborne infection isolation rooms, which complied with the CDC’s recommended guidelines for managing patients suspected of having COVID-19 in healthcare settings.


Pivoting to meet challenging times takes know-how and capital and Air Quality Engineering, Inc. tapped the SBA for help on both fronts.  In 2019, Oas participated in SBA’s Emerging Leaders Program, an intensive executive-level series intended to accelerate the growth of high-potential small businesses.

The company also received a PPP loan, which provided the capital needed when sales from its more traditional products slowed.


Air Quality Engineering, Inc. successfully pivoted and gained a new client - the U.S. Navy, which purchased XJ2 HEPA filtration/isolation units for its ships and hospitals from the company. Pivoting helped the company respond to the slower industrial and restaurant sector sales.

“Receiving PPP funds have really helped and our bank, Bremer, has been terrific.  We are very grateful for the help in these very uncertain times.” She went on to say, “Sure glad I participated in Emerging Leaders! Helps with perspective as well as even the growth plan; instant confidence when needed most. I knew this stuff in a basic way before, of course, but now I really know it in my gut.”