COMMERCIAL-NEWS | ROBERT TOMLINSON - A look at R&R Trailer in Three Rivers as of Friday. Manufacturing workers in Michigan are expected to resume work by May 11 under a new executive order by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Manufacturing, construction get back to work

Local companies ‘relieved’ to re-open

THREE RIVERS — Under Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s latest executive order, which extended the state’s stay-at-home order to May 28, allowed manufacturing workers, including those at Michigan’s big three auto companies, to resume work on Monday, May 11.

The measure came after Whitmer, on May 1, signed an executive order which allowed construction and real estate services to re-open safely. Those re-openings began May 7.

The re-openings of these businesses has affected manufacturers and construction companies big and small in Three Rivers in a multitude of different ways. Some were deemed essential and stayed open, while some smaller manufacturers had to shut down production, such as R&R Trailers in Three Rivers, which shut down for six weeks.

“I told our people here that while [Whitmer] was considering [the shutdown], that hopefully she would do it for two weeks, because I think at that time, if everybody would stay clean for 14 days and come back to work, everybody would be good. She did it for three weeks, so I couldn't argue with it, I said if the extra week makes her feel good, then yeah, we would do that. Then it became three more weeks after that,” Rick Daniels, co-owner of R&R, said. “Six weeks, it was tough for us as a small business in a small community.”

Daniels said he feels “relieved” to be back open for manufacturing, adding that “99 percent” of his employees have come back to work or are expected to come back to work. When they get back to work, he said they will have plenty to accomplish.

“At that point in time, we had four weeks of orders for customers that we had to push back six weeks,” Daniels said. “Out of all those orders, we only had one cancellation. We felt real good about that, and this week, we've been plugging along and selling trailers.”

Brussee/Brady, one of the bigger construction contractors in the area, had to close down on March 23 due to the order. Because of the shutdown, owner Tom Brady said six projects, including the new Three Rivers Public Library and the Armstrong Park Sports Complex, were delayed.

He said it felt good to get their work going again, but he said it would be hard to pick up right where they left off with some of their projects because of the shutdown.

“Say we have an excavator that’s supposed to go to Job A, and that excavator was working on an essential job needed by the state to take care of whatever items we needed to provide to fight the virus and keep the economy going. They have to complete that work, they just can’t pick up and leave that work now that we’re open,” Brady said. “We had their attention and their slot when we closed, but we had to shut down. They moved on and took care of business as needed where essential business called them. That’s happened in a few spots.”

Brady said the shutdown led to them laying off some of their employees on March 23, but through a Paycheck Protection Program loan, which the business received “immediately,” he said his employees “never missed a paycheck.”

To help his employees stay safe, Daniels said he bought 2,000 face masks and provided hand sanitizer at every work station. In addition, Daniels said there are procedures in place for hand washing and social distancing, and all office workers were provided with a mask to wear.

“I understand it's a scare, and we're all scared, and we all want to do what's socially the right thing to do, so we've provided everything we can for the safety and protection of the employees,” Daniels said.

Brady said he purchased face masks, Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer before the shutdown occurred, and stationed them in all the trucks and offices.

“We are trying to implement the guidelines,” Brady said. “Right now, we’re providing face masks and hand sanitizer, and we’ve got one guy working on a program to properly provide safe conditions for employees. We’re doing what we can and the steps that we can as safely as we can.”

Both Daniels and Brady said the re-opening of both manufacturing and construction will help the local and state economy overall, to an extent.

“Every time we reopen something, it's going to help. The unfortunate thing is, with people that are going to buy our items, they need to get their jobs open,” Daniels said. “We don't count just on other people that manufacture to buy our products, but we count on people that have restaurants, have bars, and have various other businesses in the community.”

“I’d rather have been working the whole time, and I think the outside work could’ve continued with proper precautions, and even the inside work should’ve continued with proper precautions,” Brady said. “But it is a step in the right direction.”

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 23 or robert@threeriversnews.com.

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