Street Talk: Boost for manufacturing

We promise.

Thanks to a bipartisan group of lawmakers, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center will receive a $2,118,000 federal grant to help small and medium-sized manufacturers in Michigan respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center, based in Plymouth, in Michigan’s 11th Congressional District, is part of the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program (MEP), a public-private partnership with centers in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. Administered by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the MEP is dedicated to serving small and medium-sized manufacturers by offering services such as leadership training sessions, technology integration, skill development and cybersecurity assessments.

As the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) was being negotiated, Democratic Rep. Haley Stevens of the 11th District led a bipartisan group of 34 members of Congress in a letter to House leadership calling for increased funding for the MEP program to assist small and medium-sized manufacturers. The CARES Act ultimately included $50 million in new funding for grants to MEP centers across the country.

“This funding will help Michigan manufacturers adapt to the challenges they are facing while avoiding layoffs and improving their competitiveness,” Stevens said. “I have been meeting with and visiting manufacturers across the 11th District as they adjust to the coronavirus, and I know how helpful these services from the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center will be in the months to come.”

Mike Coast, president of the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center, is the MEP representative in Michigan.

“As Michigan’s manufacturers reopen or ramp up production, it is more important than ever that these businesses have access to proven resources to guide and support them along the way. This grant will enable us to provide necessary and beneficial services, which will strengthen their operations and efforts that are critical to growing our economy,” he said.

The grant will be used to provide services that directly support manufacturers’ ability to respond to the coronavirus and improve their competitiveness as the marketplace adapts to COVID-19, including:

  • Developing “distance learning” active webinars that will be used as a continuance venue to engage manufacturers
  • Putting in place a planned focus, utilizing expert service providers, to assist manufacturers to recover from workforce and supply chain interruptions
  • Maintaining expert resources to assess the operating needs of manufacturers, scouting for manufacturers that can produce critically needed medical equipment and supplies, and organizing peer-to-peer manufacturing consultative services
  • Providing remote no-cost assessments to determine the solutions to meet manufacturers’ challenges statewide
  • Serving as a conduit to connect manufacturers to state and local resources necessary to sustain operations
  • Reaching out to manufacturers throughout the state, including rural and urban areas, to share resources, assist with critical manufacturing sector or critical sector supplier qualification and discussing current challenges and potential solutions
  • Contacting cities and counties and connecting procurement personnel needing materials to capable manufacturers
  • Offering low- to no-cost cybersecurity evaluations to manufacturers with a focus on the defense, food and health care supply chains
  • Partnering with workforce development boards to deliver layoff aversion services

Promising development

A group of 86 Michigan restaurant and bar owners announced a new initiative to ensure the health and safety of their employees, customers and communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

By signing the Michigan Restaurant Promise, restaurant and bar owners commit their establishments to upholding the state of Michigan and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention safety guidelines.

“It’s frustrating to see bars and restaurants not enforcing the health and safety guidelines laid out to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our communities,” said Chris Andrus, co-owner of Mitten Brewing. “Those establishments threaten to undo the many sacrifices our community and industry have made and undermine the hard work of establishments like mine committed to keeping the public safe.”

Restaurants and bars that signed the pledge have promised to screen all employees daily, space tables for proper social distancing and enforce all regulations as required by the state of Michigan, among other measures.

In return, patrons are asked to stay home if they are sick, wear a face mask, maintain proper social distancing and refrain from moving or combining tables.

“As restaurant owners and managers, we feel a sense of responsibility for the health and well-being of our employees, our guests and the community at large,” said Kris Spaulding, co-owner of Brewery Vivant. “That’s why we started this initiative — to show our communities we are taking this seriously and are committed to protecting their health and safety.”

“Though our entire industry is fighting for survival, our greatest concern is the safety of our team members and guests,” said Kyle Van Strien, co-owner of Long Road Distillery. “We are committed to working together and holding one another accountable, and I am proud to sign onto this pledge.”

Other local companies that have signed the pledge include 7 Monks Taproom, Barfly Ventures, Big Lake Brewing, Cedar Springs Brewing Company, City Built Brewing Company, Cottage Bar & Restaurant, Donkey Taqueria, Founders Brewing Company and Harmony Brewing Company.

“Small businesses are the heart of West Michigan and it’s great to see this group of local restaurant and bar owners be leaders in putting people first,” said Hanna Schulze, president of Local First. “The Michigan Restaurant Promise can serve as a model for other communities to hold their local businesses accountable and encourage them to prioritize the health and well-being of their employees and customers above all else.”

The Michigan Restaurant Promise is endorsed by Local First, the Kent County Health Department, Beer City Brewers Guild, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. and other local and state organizations.

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