Businesses and hospital executives advise Whitmer on reopening Michigan economy as COVID-19 outbreak subsides


Governor Gretchen Whitmer is receiving advice from business executives in several parts of Michigan on reopening the state’s economy, which has been crippled for two weeks due to the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

DTE Energy Co. executive chairman Gerry Anderson and former Henry Ford healthcare system CEO Nancy Schlichting co-chair a group they’ve brought together that includes executives from the automotive, banking and banking industries. , construction, health care and furniture, as well as public health experts. and infectious diseases.

They call the advisory group the Michigan Economic Recovery Council and plan to use it to make recommendations to Whitmer on changes to worker safety practices once public health experts say it’s safe to return to the workplace. work, Anderson said on Saturday.

“One of the goals is to put Michigan on the path to full economic recovery and to develop recommendations for the governor to enable citizens to resume economic activity as safely and quickly as possible,” Anderson said. “But I would safely stress.”

Anderson said the advisory board would develop a set of recommendations on how the governor can organize and sequence a return to normal operations for various industries when she lifts her stay-at-home order for non-essential workers.

“It should never be interpreted as a business manager urging the governor to get back to work,” Anderson told Crain’s. “We are absolutely determined to return to work someday, but ensuring that it is done exactly the right way to protect the health of our workers and the general public.”

A phased approach to reopening businesses and factories must also ensure that the healthcare system has “the capacity to respond” to a long-term threat to public health, Anderson said.

“We’re not going to be lobbying for a quick restart,” Anderson said.

Whitmer’s stay-at-home order expires on April 13, but she said Thursday that “we’re going to have to continue this stay-at-home order” as long as scientific modeling shows social distancing remains the best way to mitigate the problem. spread of the coronavirus. Infections may not peak until the end of April at the earliest.

Anderson told Crain’s that the advisory board has been split into two committees, with two senior Whitmer associates serving on each committee.

The public health advisory committee includes:

  • Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, MD, President of Oakland University and Former CEO of University of Michigan Health System
  • Wright Lassiter III, CEO of Henry Ford Health System
  • Tina Freese Decker, CEO of Spectrum Health
  • Ed Ness, CEO of Munson Healthcare
  • Samuel Stanley, MD, president of Michigan State University and infectious disease researcher
  • Mark Schlissel, MD, president of the University of Michigan
  • Mr. Roy Wilson, President of Wayne State University
  • John Fox, CEO of Beaumont Health
  • Vernice Davis Anthony, Public Health Expert and Former CEO of the Greater Detroit Health Council
  • Brian Peters, CEO of the Michigan Health & Hospital Association
  • Joneigh Khaldun, MD, Chief Medical Officer of Michigan Department of Health & Human Services

The Company Advisory Board consists of:

  • Gary Torgow, Executive Chairman of TCF Financial Corp.
  • Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors Co.
  • Ray Scott, CEO of Lear Corp.
  • Jim Fitterling, CEO of Dow Inc.
  • Jim Keane, CEO of Steelcase Inc.
  • Andi Owen, CEO of Herman Miller Inc.
  • Jay Farner, CEO of Quicken Loans Inc.
  • Rick Keyes, President and CEO of Meijer Inc.
  • Ryan Maibach, CEO of Barton Malow
  • Blake Krueger, President and CEO of Wolverine Worldwide Inc.
  • Ron Hall Jr., CEO of Bridgewater Interiors
  • Jeff Donofrio, Director of the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity

Whitmer’s office confirmed the existence of the task force on Friday evening, but provided no further information.

“The governor welcomes the advice of many, including this esteemed group of business leaders, who have come together to share their ideas and expertise,” Whitmer spokesman Zack Pohl told Crain’s.

Anderson stressed that the group is advisory in nature.

“We will try to give him the best ideas we can offer,” he said. “The governor is looking for comment. But at the end of the day, she has to fit in and land on the decisions.”

CEOs of companies with overseas operations, such as GM, Dow, Herman Miller, and Lear, have experiences to share on how they resumed manufacturing production in China after COVID-19 infections decline , said Patti Poppe, CEO of Consumers Energy.

“Everyone is safer at home, but there are also conditions in which you can be safe at work,” Poppe told Crain’s. “We can take these best practices that they’ve been using for over a month (in China) and put them in place and feel confident that our communities and our workplaces can be safe and put Michigan back to work.”

These practices could involve checking the temperature of all employees before they enter a workplace and improved disinfection practices, Poppe said.

The newly formed Michigan Economic Recovery Council includes many of the same companies that were part of a task force that Anderson of DTE convened in mid-March in conjunction with Michigan business leaders, which Anderson chairs. .

Anderson’s CEO’s previous task force focused on pooling the knowledge that Lear, GM, Dow, Herman Miller and others had gained through their overseas operations in China and Italy, being on the front lines of the pandemic before it spread widely across North America. BLM has launched a online business resource guide to respond to the virus.

Anderson said on Saturday that the CEOs chosen to serve on the new advisory board are expected to represent domestic industries – such as utilities like his company – and multinational companies that are experts in changing business practices after the coronavirus outbreak.

“The reason there is a penchant for companies with an international footprint is that they are the ones who are a few months ahead of us here in the United States to deal with this and change their business practices. a way we’re going to have to do it in this country, ”Anderson said.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated with new information from DTE Energy Co. Executive Chairman Gerry Anderson on the nature and participants of this group advising Governor Gretchen Whitmer. He also adds Mr. Roy Wilson to the list.