LANSING, Mich.—Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has opened the door for manufacturers, particularly automotive suppliers and OEMs, to begin ramping up.
Manufacturing has been given the green light for a May 11 return. A previous order has limited nonessential manufacturing in the state since March 24.
Meanwhile, the state's stay-at-home order has been extended to May 28.
"We've come a long way in the last two months," Whitmer said during a May 7 news conference.
General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. publicly stated they plan to resume vehicle production in North America on May 18, but at 25 percent capacity. The UAW has approved that plan, but the industry's auto suppliers needed lead time to make that happen.
Washington, D.C.-based Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association and Troy-based Original Equipment Suppliers Association sent a letter to Whitmer, saying they were prepared to restart production safely but needed to do so five days before auto makers.
The groups—whose members employ 125,000 in Michigan—stressed to Whitmer that the work would ramp up slowly and noted that safety is paramount.
"These stages will occur slowly and deliberately and will allow for implementation of the appropriate safety protocols," the letter read. "However, in order to provide components and parts to vehicle manufacturers, suppliers need to re-start at least five days before (auto maker) production. We would like to work with you toward that end."
Ohio allowed the resumption of auto manufacturing on May 5, putting Whitmer under increased pressure to allow Michigan's auto industry to resume as the supply chain is connected to more than a dozen states in the U.S.
While Whitmer has resisted allowing many businesses to reopen as the state continues to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak, Republican law makers have put increased pressure on her to allow businesses to reopen by filing a lawsuit May 6 against the governor, alleging the halting of economic activity during the crisis violated the state constitution.
Whitmer said May 7 that other businesses will be allowed to reopen as soon as the next couple of weeks if new cases continue to decline, but also warned those that have been allowed to reopen could be shuttered again if cases spike.
"We still have to be vigilant across our state," Whitmer said. "Letting our guard down now squanders all the hard work we've put into this state. As we proceed, all the decisions are to lower the possibility of that (second) wave. We will remain nimble .... but we'll pull back if we see a spike in cases."
It's unknown how many of the 1.33 million unemployed in the state will be recalled to work next week. Michigan's entire manufacturing sector employed about 622,000 in March, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Manufacturing accounts for roughly 19 percent of the state's economy, Whitmer said.
"This is a sizable piece of our economy, but it's only an incremental step," she said. "Manufacturing is an important part of our economy and we think we can safely re-engage."