Michigan CEOs talk ways to get safely back to work

Coronavirus

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — CEOs from across Michigan are working together to try to figure out when and how to safely reopen the economy.

About a dozen business leaders participated in a virtual conference Wednesday afternoon, where Doug DeVos, co-chairman of Amway Corp., led a discussion about safely moving Michigan forward.

“There’s lots of things we can learn and that’s why we want to be here to learn from you,” DeVos said. “…Coalesce around a plan so we can start moving forward, overcome the fear and finding that pathway to restart our economy.”

DeVos said the focus of the meeting, hosted by the West Michigan Policy Forum, was to better understand how local CEOs are dealing with the coronavirus climate.

Many of the companies represented on the call have been operating as an essential service, protecting their limited workforce by implementing best practices like taking the temperature of employees at the start of each shift and sanitizing the work area three times per day.

Growing anxious as the governor’s strict stay-at-home orders continue, several CEOs on the call said it should be up to them, the individual companies, to decide when its safe for employees to get back to work.

“We feel that we did what was necessary to protect lives, but now we’re at a point where we need to protect livelihoods and make sure people have jobs to come back to,” ELCo Enterprises Vice President Brian Cooper said.

Mike VanGessel, CEO of Rockford Construction, made a similar point. He hopes to see businesses begin to reopen within the next ten days.

“Getting our industry activated and getting beyond this ‘essential’ and ‘nonessential’ language and letting us as an industry determine under our guidelines (of when), I think we can really operate and get back to work,” VanGessel said.

Throughout the discussion, the business executives made it clear that the health and safety of their employees is the top priority.

At the end of the meeting, DeVos said the input received during the conversation will be summarized and passed along to public officials in hopes it will help guide their decision-making.

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