Many businesses across Iowa are encouraging or ordering employees to work from home indefinitely, but it’s not an option for many of us, especially factory workers.
Mike Ralston, president of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry, says he’s not aware of any major factory closures in the state due to coronavirus, but it’s certainly having a chilling effect on commerce.
“The biggest impact for Iowa manufacturers so far is not that they have to close their doors, but that they’re experiencing issues involving their supply chain,” Ralston says. “Maybe they work with a vendor who can’t get a product to them so they can’t make their product — or they have delays in their product. That’s probably the biggest thing.”
Iowans are innovative and they’re finding ways to work around their challenges, Ralston says, even during a national emergency. He adds, many Iowa manufacturers don’t keep a lot of inventory in stock, which is often a smart practice, but not so much during this situation.
“What they’re doing is trying to find different suppliers, having some success with that,” Ralston says. “In other ways, they’re delayed in delivering their final product. So those are probably the two biggest things, finding other suppliers, and they’re able to do that so far, or just having delays in their delivery.”
Most Iowans who work in factories can’t “shelter in place” and do their work from anywhere other than the workplace, so Ralston says employers are taking precautions.
“It’s tough to have a manufacturing production worker work from home — that obviously doesn’t work,” Ralston says. “In many plants and factories, workers by nature are at least six feet apart in most situations. They’re also trying to make sure that employees, when they take breaks, for instance, that they maintain social distancing.”
Ralston has a message for Iowa consumers, urging them to continue doing their part to keep the wheels of industry turning. “Be safe with your family but try to make it business as usual,” Ralston says. “Make sure the goods and services you normally purchase you’re purchasing in some way still. Pay attention to what the experts are telling us about health and safety, and as much as possible, try to make it business as usual.”
The Association of Business and Industry is Iowa’s largest statewide business organization with more than 1,500 member companies representing 330,000 working Iowans.