Detroit Regional Chamber > Business Resources > COVID-19 > Michigan Economic Recovery Council Advises Gov. Whitmer on Reopening Based on Risk, Workplace Environment, Geography

Michigan Economic Recovery Council Advises Gov. Whitmer on Reopening Based on Risk, Workplace Environment, Geography

April 27, 2020
As the MDHHS reports a 32% decrease in COVID-19 hospitalizations, Gov. Whitmer is approaching the strategy of reopening of the state economy with the support of statewide business organizations. A group of health care and business leaders from across the state formed the Michigan Economic Recovery Council (MERC) earlier this month. The Council, which is also being advised by the Detroit Regional Chamber, Business Leaders for Michigan (BLM), the Grand Rapids Chamber, and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, is recommending to approach the reopening of businesses in phases to avoid a second wave.

The Council is co-chaired by Gerry Anderson, the current chair of Business Leaders for Michigan, and past Chamber Board Chair Nancy Schlichting, the former CEO of Henry Ford Health System (HFHS). Also representative of hospital leaders, the current HFHS CEO Wright Lassiter III, the incoming 2021 Mackinac Policy Conference Chair; and Chamber Board Member John Fox, the CEO of Beaumont Health.

Tasked with assessing the public health risk of reopening sectors of the economy that have been shut down since early March, the Council and governor are considering workplace environment, geographical region, and the detected prevalence of COVID-19 when assessing what businesses should reopen next.

In an interview with Crain’s Detroit Business, Whitmer said that low-risk sectors of the economy such as additional outdoor enterprises would be in the next wave, as well as residential and commercial construction.

Identified as the MERC regions, the Council broke the state into eight geographical areas that will be used to track the intensity and evolution of COVID-19. When looking at the risk factors of locations, the Council and governor are also considering the health care capacity of the regions as well.


MERC is also considering the workplace environment and broke the state into nine types, such as:

  1. Office (29 percent of the workforce)
  2. Industrial (19 percent)
  3. Inpatient and outpatient health care (13 percent)
  4. Retail (12 percent)
  5. Restaurant and lodging (8 percent)
  6. Schools and colleges (6 percent)
  7. Construction (4 percent)
  8. Outdoor occupations (4 percent);
  9. Other (4 percent)

The University of Michigan’s public health experts have done a risk assessment of each of the nine identified workplaces to help guide safety protocol for businesses when they reopen.

Along with geographical regions and workplace environment, the group is also assessing the risk factors such as in-person interactions with the public; the contact and distract between coworkers; shared tools; machines and equipment; required work travel; worker density per square foot; and the pre-existing health conditions of employees.

This methodology paired with a set of best practices created by the Council will ensure that Michigan reopens properly, providing extensive guidance to businesses of all sizes.

The MERC group is split into two advisory groups.

The health care advisory group includes:

  • Vernice David Anthony, Retired CEO, Greater Detroit Health Council
  • Tina Freese Decker, CEO, Spectrum Health
  • John Fox, CEO, Beaumont Health
  • Angelique Joynes, Health Officer, Allegan County Health Department
  • Joneigh Khaldun, Chief Medical Executive and Chief Deputy Director, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services
  • Ed Ness, CEO, Munson Healthcare
  • Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, President, Oakland University
  • Brian Peters, CEO, Michigan Health and Hospital Association
  • Mark Schlissel, President, University of Michigan
  • Samuel Stanley Jr., President, Michigan State University
  • Roy Wilson, president of Wayne State University

MERC’s business advisory group includes:

  • Mary Barra, Chairman and CEO, General Motors Co.
  • Ron Bieber, President, Michigan AFL-CIO
  • Jeff Donofrio, Director, Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, State of Michigan
  • Jay Farner, CEO, Quicken Loans Inc.
  • Jim Fitterling, CEO, Dow Inc.
  • Rory Gamble, President, United Auto Workers
  • Milan Gandhi, Med-Share Inc.; Board Chairman, Small Business Association of Michigan
  • Ron Hall Jr., President and CEO, Bridgewater Interiors
  • Jim Keane, President and CEO, Steelcase Inc.
  • Rick Keyes, President and CEO, Meijer Inc.
  • Blake Krueger, Chairman, President and CEO, Wolverine World Wide
  • Ryan Maibach, President and CEO, Barton Malow
  • Andi Owen, President and CEO, Herman Miller
  • Ray Scott, President and CEO, Lear Corp.
  • Gary Torgow, Executive Chairman, TCF Financial Corp.