Heard on Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson

These Michigan Businesses Want to Be Part of the Solution to COVID-19 Shortages

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Image credit: Detroit City Distillery

It’s all hands on deck for Detroit carmakers, clothing manufacturers and distilleries, as they pivot to produce equipment to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The coronavirus pandemic has completely transformed several industries, causing some businesses to grind to a halt.

When you have a crisis, we’re all seeing how our community comes together.” — Jen Guarino, Industrial Sewing and Innovation Center

At the same time, health care systems are still experiencing shortages of personal protective equipment, ventilators and respirators. Businesses big and small in Michigan and across the country have begun to convert their operations to address this shortage of medical supplies.

Industries’ widespread retooling and manufacturing effort has sparked conversation around innovation and the role of business in a national crisis. 

Click on the player above to hear how Michigan businesses are pivoting to help with COVID-19 response. 


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Paul Eisenstein, publisher of The Detroit Bureau, says General Motors and Ford Motor Co. have transformed production to make masks and face shields and should be flooding the market with those products shortly. Eisenstein says that the automakers deserve praise for their proactive response to the crisis instead of the scrutiny that they have received from President Donald Trump.

Many of the things that the automakers said they learned from the Great Recession, they are putting to use right now.” — Paul Eisenstein, The Detroit Bureau

Im a little sad about how they were handled by the White House,” says Eisenstein. 

The auto industry has taken a hit as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. In some places like Detroit auto sales have essentially froze, but Eisenstein says it could be worse.

Many of the things that the automakers said they learned from the Great Recession, they are putting to use right now,” Eisenstein says. ”They are not collapsing the way they would have if it had been business as usual.”

Jen Guarino, CEO and Chair at Industrial Sewing and Innovation Center, was set to open the doors to her Detroit nonprofit this month and has since shifted efforts to address the COVID-19 health crisis. The innovation center, created to develop sustainable careers in the industry, is partnering with local businesses and government to manufacture PPE.

When you have a crisis, we’re all seeing how our community comes together. So we believe that the leadership we’re showing now will really serve our mission going forward,” says Guarino. 

Michael Forsyth, co-owner of Detroit City Distillery, says his small business has been transformed from producing alcohol to supplying hand sanitizer to several organizations in need across the state.

For us it’s been a real challenge just to keep up with the supply chain, but we’ve been able to pivot quickly to help a lot of people,” says Forsyth.

The shift in production has enabled the Distillery to keep the lights on as the state’s stay home order has greatly impacted business.

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This post is a part of Coronavirus in Michigan.

101.9 WDET, Detroit’s NPR Station, is committed to providing accurate, up-to-date information on coronavirus, and it's related illness COVID-19, in Michigan. 

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