Manufacturers relieved to get green light from Whitmer

Coronavirus

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Thursday brought good news for the state’s manufacturing sector: Starting Monday, they can go back to work.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s order allowing manufacturing, which makes up about 20% of Michigan’s economy, to resume included instructions that employers take precautions to limit the spread of coronavirus.

“Obviously, I think we’re thrilled,” said David Beemer, the CEO of employee recognition giant TerryBerry, which employs 175 people locally, and the chair of the West Michigan Manufacturer’s Council. “After having many of our companies shut down for the better part of two months, everybody’s pretty excited to get back to work.”

Jim Teets is CEO of ADAC Automotive, a tier one automotive supplier of exterior trim, door handles and electronics to the Big Three automakers, VW and Honda that employs 1,200 at locations in Grand Rapids, Muskegon and Saranac.

“As we all know, (Whitmer) is making her decisions based on science and facts,” Teets said, though he admitted those decisions have been hard on his company. “We’ve laid off probably 90%-plus of our hourly folks.”

He was part of a group of manufacturers who asked the governor to let suppliers open up a week or so before the planned May 18 opening of the big automotive manufacturers, which would allow the suppliers to gear up.

“Good news and I think there’s signs she is listening to her business partners in the state now,” Teets said.

“It has been a challenge, there’s no question about that, especially when there are other states that shelter-in-place requirements have not been as stringent as in Michigan,” Beemer said.

The manufacturers will have to adhere to a safety protocol that includes daily screenings, questions about symptoms, temperature-taking and limited entry. Construction companies and other industries that went back to work Thursday were also ordered to institute such safety protocols.

“(Employees are) all going to have to go through an orientation because it’s going to be a new normal at work now,” Teets said.

Beemer said the manufacturers have been getting ready to meet the health guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with help from The Right Place, Inc., the local economic development agency. He believes they will be ready to comply, though it will require adjustments like smaller shifts.

Not all manufacturers will call back all their employees on Monday. Some will start small and hope to grow as the economy allows.

“I would like to be able to say we’re going to be able to call back all 700 of our hourly employees right away but I think initially … it’s only going to be 100 to 150 hourly associates to start,” Teets said. “Probably starting tomorrow and on Monday, we will start calling people back.”

  

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