Michigan is a state that pulls together and innovates when times get tough. We saw it in the 1940s, when the Motor City retooled to become the hub for WWII weapons production and Detroit factories were hailed as symbols of American ingenuity. We saw it in the ’30s and ’40s when, prompted by a virulent local outbreak of whooping cough, a trio of women bucked the challenges of working in an under-resourced Kent County public health lab, as well as the gender and racial stereotypes of the time, to develop the first effective vaccine for the disease. And we’re seeing it today as Michigan’s small businesses, global companies, health care and research institutions, state and local governments, nonprofits and community organizations are partnering to slow the spread of the coronavirus and respond to its devastating health and economic impacts.
That’s why I’m bullish on Michigan. Innovation, collaboration and cooperation are good for business. These creative partnerships and the determined businesses, institutions and policymakers that drive them are what will ensure Michigan emerges strong and open for business at the end of this pandemic.
For our part, Truscott Rossman will continue to grow and invest in our home communities of Grand Rapids, Lansing and our new headquarters in Detroit. From there — one of the country’s largest and most dynamic markets — as well as from our office in Washington, D.C., we’ll work to connect our Michigan clients to the world and help bring the world to our state. We’re proud of our Michigan roots and confident in our state’s future as a great place to do business.
Since Truscott Rossman opened our Grand Rapids office in 2011, we’ve seen creative public-private collaborations drive change and improve the quality of life in this community. That’s truer than ever in this crisis.
For instance, the West Michigan COVID-19 Business Coalition formed in March and launched a comprehensive website to help West Michigan employers and displaced workers weather the crisis. Convened by Experience Grand Rapids, the Grand Rapids Chamber and The Right Place, Inc., the coalition aims to make critical information on state policy, relief programs, best practices and health more accessible to all area businesses and their employees. The group includes a diverse set of public and private entities, including the Asian Pacific American Chamber of Commerce, city of Grand Rapids, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., Kent County, LINC UP, Local First, National Business League Inc., Urban League of West Michigan, West Michigan Hispanic Chamber and West Michigan Works!
In another innovative partnership, Kent County is collaborating with the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine to operate the Kent County Back to Work Health Check program. With the backing of the West Michigan Policy Forum and patterned after a program that Meijer developed in partnership with Spectrum Health to maintain a healthy work environment for its 35,000 employees, this regional program combines proven safety protocols with screening tools and health-data tracking to guide community-level strategies and help stop the spread of the virus throughout the region. Other area hospitals also are on board and have helped expand the program, which now counts 155 employer locations participating each week, and more joining as new industries open their doors.
These are solutions-driven initiatives that call on all involved to leave territorialism and politics at the door.
We’re seeing similar constructive collaborations drive our state’s response to the current crisis. The Michigan Economic Recovery Council advises Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on a phased reopening strategy. Comprised of leaders in health care, public health, education, labor and business from across the state — including many from West Michigan’s largest employers — MERC advised the governor on the MI Safe Start Plan, the state’s roadmap to restarting the economy, released in May.
And just last month, another diverse group of business, health care and community leaders from Detroit, Grand Rapids and all points between partnered to fund and launch the Rona For Real campaign, a multimillion-dollar advertising and digital media blitz aimed at convincing young adults that the threat of the coronavirus is real.
The challenges this virus poses to our health, our communities, our businesses and our economy are real. But so is the ingenuity of the people of Michigan. I’m confident that ingenuity will see us through.
John Truscott is CEO and co-founder of Truscott Rossman, a strategic communications and storytelling agency headquartered in Detroit with offices in Grand Rapids, Lansing and Washington, D.C.