By Erica Colaianne
How can Michigan reopen safely and efficiently? University of Michigan economic experts participated in the Virtual Wolverine Caucus panel on May 22, 2020 to answer that question and discuss tools and resources that are available to help guide businesses through the process.
The panelists were:
- Scott Page, John Seely Brown Distinguished University Professor of Complexity, Social Science, and Management at the U-M College of Literature, Science, and the Arts
- Vikesh Chandrashekar, project manager at the U-M Economic Growth Institute
- Bruce Barron, President and CEO of Barron Industries Inc.
Page presented the main ideas behind and goals of the reopening toolkit, which is a strategy and implementation plan intended to help create safe and productive workspaces. At the virtual event, Page shared the three components of a reopening strategy: personal contact networks, person-object networks, and floor plan mapping. And he suggested using this as an opportunity to make not just marginal but transformative changes to how businesses are run.
“In thinking about the strategies that companies and small businesses create to deal with the pandemic, I think one of the most important things is going to be implementation, and that means putting together a team of people that’s really inclusive in addition to thinking about things like sequencing and facilities,” Page said.
He added that communication protocols are very important, and emphasized the need for businesses to understand what individuals are experiencing so people—employees and customers alike—can feel productive and safe.
Chandrashekar explained how the Economic Growth Institute supports enterprises across Michigan by addressing critical gaps in technology commercialization and new customer acquisition, and how they are working to share Page’s framework strategy with the broader community.
“One of the things that really attracted us toward this sort of framework as opposed to the other tools that are out there is that it gives businesses an understanding of their risk for virus transmission within their company. And this is important because we don’t want the entire business to shut down if one person reports a COVID-19 case,” he said.
Barron joined the panel to share his experiences working with the Economic Growth Institute, creating a protocol to keep the Barron Industries Inc. workforce safe as an essential business, and discussed the work his company still has to do. The Economic Growth Institute has mapped the potential interactions that exist within the 80 Barron employees—finding almost 6,000 potential contacts—and now are helping Barron outline the changes that will be made to limit those interactions.
“We engaged with Dr. Page and the Economic Growth Institute to put some science behind a plan for how we’re going to continue to move forward,” Barron said. “We’re very much looking forward to not only creating a contact structure to keep members of the Barron team safe, but I believe we’re also going to actually improve the efficiency of communication in the company.”
The panel concluded with Page, Chandrashekar, and Barron taking questions from attendees, including Senator Mallory McMorrow of Oakland County’s 13th District. See their presentations and hear the Q&A in the full presentation video.
- Virtual Wolverine Caucus: The State of Michigan and COVID-19
- Guiding Businesses Through the COVID-19 Pandemic
Interested in attending a future Wolverine Caucus program? Visit the Government Relations website to stay informed about upcoming events.