Despite our increasingly diversified economy with growing industries such as financial services, food and soft goods, manufacturing still powers Detroit’s economic engine.
It’s an industry – like so many others – that’s been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis. Michigan Governor Whitmer’s order allowing manufacturing workers to resume work in early May came as good news for several reasons.
Automotive and manufacturing remain the backbone of our regional economy. Many of our residents’ livelihoods depend on the healthy production of vehicles and auto parts. Detroit, and its people, are critical to the global supply chain.
I’m proud that our Governor’s re-entry decision was based on collaboration and science. With the leadership of the UAW, Detroit automakers and industry associations, Gov. Whitmer is ensuring that workers can safely provide for their families and help Michigan power the region’s economic recovery.
As workers return to their manufacturing jobs, we must keep health and safety a priority – not only in providing COVID-safe work environments, but in all future pandemic-related decisions. As the crisis continues, it’s important that we maintain our “safety first” commitment and never place economic decisions above the wellbeing of our people.
COVID-19 precautions have been implemented in all of our area’s manufacturing facilities. This includes providing personal protective equipment, installing barriers that separate employees clustered together, identifying designated entry points and sanitizing work areas. Companies are limiting non-essential personnel, screening workers with temperature checks, and asking about possible exposure to the virus – even travel habits. While face masks must be worn at all times, face shields are recommended for those who cannot consistently maintain three feet of separation from other workers.
Lear Corporation led the industry in developing a playbook outlining helpful practices for health and safety procedures, operating discipline and training employees on transmittal, signs and symptoms of COVID-19. GM created a ‘Returning to Work with Confidence,’ booklet that discussed facility ventilation, physical distancing, workforce communication and sanitation procedures for high touch places. Both companies have tracking processes in place in the event of exposure.
In the early days of the pandemic, several OEMs and suppliers recalled workers to manufacture PPE – including masks, face shields and protective garments. FCA, Ford and GM even began producing ventilators, proving again the commitment of Detroit’s original “Big Three” to the safety of our nation, as they did some 80 years ago during World War II.
Manufacturing is not only the life blood of Detroit’s economy; it is a collaborative partner with our city and our people. This industry has led the world in creating precautions that are keeping our workers safe, and restarting a global economy derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic. While we continue to live in the COVID environment, I encourage everyone to remain vigilant about their own safety. We cannot afford to let down our guard for even one minute. Doing so would put at risk the progress our Governor and Mayor have charted in reducing the spread of COVID, and its lethal impact on our people and businesses.
Kevin Johnson is president and CEO of the Detroit Economic Growth Corp