‘Corona-depression’ feared as firms contract, retool

GM continues construction on Brookville plant; grocers need thousands of workers

In a fast-changing economic landscape, many employers were pulling back even as others were preparing to hire thousands.

When the dust settles however, the resulting economic damage is expected to be widespread.

One economic analysis says 1.2 million Ohio workers will suffer at least two days’ lost wages during the next 45 days.

“Given the ‘shelter in place’ orders just released in Ohio, and the decision to shut down auto assembly plants, those numbers will certainly grow,” Patrick Anderson, chief executive of Michigan market analysis firm Anderson Economic Group LLC, said Monday.

“These numbers mean we are not just in a corona-recession,” Anderson added. “We are facing a corona-depression during the next month.”

General Motors and Honda and other automakers are shutting down production, a move certain to have ripple effects across an array of Miami Valley employers. But other area employers are hiring or readying to shift gears in production to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The DMAX truck engine plant in Moraine began to shut down Friday. Auto parts suppliers such as Fuyao Glass America in Moraine, Tenneco in Kettering and others will likely soon be forced to follow suit.

However, construction work continues on GM’s new Brookville plant, which is being built to supply parts to the DMAX engine plant.

“At this time there is no delay in construction,” GM spokeswoman Stephanie Jentgen said Monday. “The Brookville construction site is considered essential per the guidelines provided by the state of Ohio order announced” Sunday.

“GM leadership discussions and reviews are in process daily for each site,” Jentgen added. “We are working at the site practicing social distancing of six feet or greater, no huddles of more than 10 individuals and required hygiene practices.”

Vandalia-based Lion Group Inc. makes personal protective gear for first responders. Production at the company’s dual manufacturing sites in Dayton and Kentucky continued Monday.

“We are currently manufacturing other protective equipment that is vital for our first responders on the front lines of the pandemic,” Jamie Coch, Lion’s vice president, marketing, said in an email. “At this time, we are focused on delivering those much needed products in a timely manner which includes an increased demand for chemical and biological protective garments.”

Added Coch: “We do operate six cleaning and repair centers around the country for firefighter PPE (protective equipment) that are equipped to disinfect firefighters gear in contact with an infected person. We will continue to evaluate how we can best support this battle with our production capacity in other ways.”

GM and Ventec Life Systems will work together to help Ventec boost production of its respiratory care products, both companies said.

“Ventec will leverage GM’s logistics, purchasing and manufacturing expertise to build more of their critically important ventilators,” the companies said in a recent joint statement.

“This is moving very fast,” GM spokesman Dan Flores said Monday.

GE Aviation, a significant Ohio employer, said Monday that it would lay off about 10 percent of its workforce.

GE Aviation also said that there will be a temporary lack of work impacting about half of its U.S. maintenance, repair and overhaul employees for 90 days, the Associated Press said. GE Aviation had already announced a hiring freeze, the cancellation of a salaried merit increase, a reduction of all non-essential spending, and a decrease in its contingent workforce.

Embassy Suites in Dublin is laying off 77 workers. Other Ohio and national hotel chains may follow.

Meanwhile, Domino’s, Kroger, Walmart and other retail operations are incredibly busy. Those companies (and others) say they are hiring thousands.

Walmart announced it would hire 150,000 new employees across the nation through the end of May.

“In Ohio, Walmart plans to hire more than 5,700 associates to work in stores, clubs, distribution centers and fulfillment centers,” Mark Rickel, a Walmart spokesman, said in an email Monday. “All stores are hiring, but the number of openings per store vary depending on need. Job tasks also depends on individual store, but stocking shelves is a priority right now.”

Anyone interested in applying can apply at careers.walmart.com.

Kroger leaders said last week the Cincinnati-based grocery chain is hiring 10,000 new employees nationwide across its retail stores, manufacturing plants and distribution centers.

Kroger said it is speeding up its typical hiring process, so new hires can begin work more quickly. To apply, go to: jobs.kroger.com.

Domino’s Pizza said last week it needs 10,000 employees.

Moraine-based CAVU Group said it donated about 5,000 forehead thermometers to foodbanks, emergency services sites, area councils on aging, Catholic Social Services and other agencies.

“Today, the coronavirus has emerged as a very real and direct threat to the physical, emotional, and economic health of both our country and extended community,” Randall Lane, CAVU brands CEO said in a statement. “CAVU Group is proud to play a small role in supporting many Southwestern Ohio caretakers, medical responders, and service organizations.”

Anderson Economic Group, of East Lansing, Mich., estimated last week that 104 million Americans would likely lose at least two days’ wages during the next 45 days.

“Those appeared to be shocking numbers at that time,” Patrick Anderson, the company’s chief executive, said in an email Monday. “However, that was before Illinois ordered ‘shelter in place’ and before the Detroit 3 (automakers) said they would start closing assembly plants.”

The company said it will revise its estimate in the next two days.

“Unfortunately, the damage to employment and earnings will be larger than even we estimated last week,” Anderson said.

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