2020 Innovators Awards Inductee Profile: Tonn and Blank Construction

February 5, 2021

Tonn and Blank Construction is a construction management company that operates throughout Indiana and Illinois. Their company-wide creativity, innovation and resourcefulness in a time of extreme pressure and constraints allowed Franciscan Health to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic throughout the region.

Tonn and Blank made rapid changes to its normal operations to help healthcare experts and first responders safely treat patients. They moved quickly from preparedness to action in a matter of days to help fight against the public health crisis. From field employees to safety professionals to design staff to project managers, the entire Tonn and Blank team across four offices played an important role in their efforts.

Some of Tonn and Blank’s innovative efforts were:

  • Temporary Triage Units – Built in just five days, the TTUs included infection control systems, finishes and seating for patients at the recommended 6’ spacing. The plan had controlled access points and designated paths for patients to return to their car or to another facility dependent on the level of care required. The TTUs designed and built by Tonna and Blank were shared state-wide with other healthcare systems in an effort to be a community resource for the crisis.
  • Face Shields – Tonn and Blank produced nearly 10,000 face shields for Franciscan Health facilities. Using long-time partnerships, enough material was secured to produce face shields to be distributed across all of Franciscan’s campuses.
  • Surgical Gowns – Tonn and Blank developed a pattern for clear plastic surgical gowns and secured enough material to produce the needed supply of gowns for Franciscan’s hospitals. Teams also worked with furloughed Fitness Center staff to produce and package the gowns safely. Over 50,000 surgical gowns were and distributed throughout the Franciscan network.
  • Isolation Rooms – The company converted standard patient rooms at Franciscan facilities to negative air isolation rooms for the influx of COVID-19 patients. Tonn and Blank teams fabricated plywood window inserts, built a melamine box around the fan and installed pressure differential monitors. This was an incredible cost-effective method and allowed flexibility for the hospitals.

Can you please briefly describe the launch of Tonn and Blank’s efforts with Franciscan Health?

This all started at the beginning of the pandemic, when we were having calls with Franciscan’s system of 12 hospitals across Indiana and Illinois. We were talking about our teams’ to COVID. It was really an interesting time because we were concerned about how we were going to react to this.

We were falling back on what was done in the past with the flu, but it turned to the subject of how we’re going to treat COVID patients when they come to the hospital or the potential COVID patients. We didn’t want to cross mingle the people who didn’t have COVID with the people who might have COVID. So the idea was to build facilities outside of the emergency room, temporary facilities, in order to take care of the people who were testing for COVID.

What does it mean to have Tonn and Blank’s work recognized by the Society of Innovators?

Jon Gilmore, President – Our team was faced with a very difficult problem that we have never seen in any of our lifetimes. They stepped up and mitigated that problem without hesitation. Looking at other people and teams that have been inducted into the Society, it is a great honor for us to be involved. And this was not Jon Gilmore. I didn’t do it. It was my team and I could not be more proud of them and they all deserve this recognition.

What is something you wish more people knew about Northwest Indiana?

Our skilled workforce and the talent we have here. I would put our workers, our healthcare workers, our manufacturing workers against anyone in the world. And that’s a fact. I’ve been all over the world and I’ve seen it. And we have some of the best skilled trades people in the world here.

Being skilled isn’t the end of it. Work ethic is what makes us different. Our people going into those hospitals, working on the front lines with the doctors and nurses to prepare them to take care of the COVID patients is a great example of that work ethic that we have right here in Northwest Indiana. That is one of our greatest resources.

What is you’re looking for in potential employers? Is there anything specific today’s students should be thinking about now as they prepare themselves for future careers?

Students should embrace the idea that if there is a problem, there is also a solution. You just have to find it. It’s up to you to find the solution and it’s there. Our Franciscan project is a great example of that. There was no predecessor to this work. We found the solutions very quickly because we had our eyes open and we looked for them and we didn’t fall in love with our excuses. We didn’t say, “Oh, we can’t do that.” Or, “This won’t work.” We just plowed ahead and found the solution. And that’s what I would advocate for our young people.

What does innovation mean to you?

Innovation to me is a necessity in business. If you don’t evolve, if you don’t innovate, your business is going to fail. It’s going to eventually die. In fact, innovation is in our mission statement: “Deliver innovative construction solutions that build trust, earn respect, and create value.” So it’s right in our name. We believe it’s part of our culture and want to make it part of our culture.


Tonn and Blank Construction was a 2020 team inductee into the Society of Innovators at Purdue Northwest. It was a company-wide effort led by Jon Gilmore, President; Operations, superintendents and field employees, represented by Jeff Chapman; Design department, represented by Rafael Tudor; Program Management, represented by Roger Knaggs; Safety, Quality and COVID response planning, represented by Eric Wise. A full list of 2020 inductees can be found here.