Gov. Whitmer To Reopen Commercial, Residential Construction In Michigan May 7

WWJ News
April 29, 2020 - 5:43 pm

(WWJ) More companies will be able to start work in Michigan next week after a six-week shutdown due to COVID-19.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Wednesday that commercial and residential construction will be permitted to resume next Thursday, May 7.  

After relaxing regulations for landscapers and greenhouses last week, the governor said this is the next step in her 'MI Safe Start' plan to relaunch the state economy.

Whitmer, however, stressed that Michigan remains in a state of emergency amid the pandemic. 

"As we reengage, we have to do so slowly," Whitmer said, at an afternoon news conference.

Whitmer bristled when asked by reporters about House and Senate Republicans who question her executive powers, pushing for more business sectors to reopen faster. 

"This is not a political conversation; this is not a political negotiation. This is about the public health," Whitmer said.

"We can't make decisions based on feeling and fear; we have to go with the facts and the science," she said. "Lives are depending on this. And ultimately our economic health is depending health depends on us getting the right."

While road construction projects, deemed essential, had been continuing under the governor's stay-home order, in effect through May 15, residential and commercial builders were shut down.

While she has not named any industry names beyond construction, Whitmer said 'MI Safe Start' will be incremental; beginning with workplace that pose the least amount of risk. 

Those who work in the construction industry, including Michael Stoskopf with the Home Builders Association of Southeastern Michigan, are pleased with the developments. 

"The governor even has said that homes are the greatest place of stability for many Michiganders right now through this crisis," Stoskopf  told WWJ's Rob St. Mary. "And of course our members work on those homes; whether they're new homes, whether they're remodeling."

Stoskopf says 400 new-built homes typically close every month in the state. 

"Now our builders have, you know, a week, ten days to start planning with their trades and their employees and their suppliers to get those projects going again," he said. "Clearly they want to get those projects closed, so I really think it's more of a delay that's occurred as opposed to lost business."

Stoskopf said masks, gloves, keeping distance and shared tools clean will be essential to re-opening job sites and limiting infections. 

The Detroit Regional Chamber issued a statement in support of the governor's plan.

“The continued pragmatic and safe measures to get Michigan back to work that Gov. Whitmer is taking, such as opening up the construction sector on May 7, aligns with the Chamber’s point of view for reactivating the economy in phases,” said the Chamber's president and CEO Sandy Baruah. “A recent Chamber poll showed the majority of workers, 61%, felt safe returning to work, and 60% reported they trusted their employer to keep them safe. The Governor’s focus on public health infused with thoughtful input from business will yield better health and economic outcomes."

Whitmer's stay-home order remains in effect through May 15.