MONTREAL - The federal government is investing as much as $29 million in a company building a factory in Montreal to make the specialized fabric needed to produce respirators and surgical masks.

The money will go toward a $38.8-million project by Meltech Innovation Canada Inc., a division of Medicom Group Inc., that includes the factory as well as a research and development lab and testing facility.

The factory will make meltblown polypropylene which is used in the middle filter layer for respirators and surgical masks.

The government says the new factory will fill a domestic manufacturing gap and help Canada be more self-sufficient when it comes to the production of personal protective equipment.

The factory is expected to supply enough fabric to produce over half a billion masks per year.

Medicom, a privately owned Canadian company based in Montreal, has operations in over 50 countries.