By Dan Gretzner
From the July/August 2020 Issue
As Michigan’s businesses implement their return-to-work plans, Consumers Energy reaffirms its commitment to help small businesses, nonprofits and communities expand and prosper.
Taking care of customers and providing service after the sale—especially in challenging times—embody Consumers Energy’s purpose of world-class performance that delivers hometown service. As Michigan powers through COVID-19 and companies implement their return-to-work playbooks, Consumers Energy is once again helping businesses expand.
“We don’t succeed if our businesses and communities don’t succeed,” said Valerie Christofferson, Director of Economic Development. “We’re committed to a triple bottom line of people, planet and Michigan’s prosperity. That doesn’t change in times of crisis. We’ll be here to help every step of the way.”
This “new normal” also is creating pure opportunity for those looking for a great site or to grow their business.
As a state, Michigan:
- Offers about 133,000 engineers—more than any other U.S. state—and 250,000 skilled trades workers—among the top 10 in the nation.
- Is ranked 2nd nationally in tech-sector job growth since 2010 and is home to the 5th-largest advanced manufacturing workforce in the U.S.
- Is a top 10 state for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degree completions (29,000 in 2018).
- Offers a low cost of living with many natural attractions that make it the 4th most affordable state in the country. Of note, in 2019, The Wall Street Journal named Grand Rapids as the 2nd best place to live in the U.S.
The COVID-19 crisis also helped solidify the partnerships between Consumers Energy, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the Small Business Association of Michigan and many other local economic development organizations. Together, these groups provided access to state and federal aid while also offering new business opportunities through the Pure Michigan Business Connect Program.
Consumers Energy is committed to helping small businesses, nonprofits and communities prosper—in energy and beyond—now more than ever. New virtual energy assessments and expanded energy waste reduction programs join a comprehensive list of offerings. Learn more at ConsumersEnergy.com/econdev.
That is all complemented by Consumers Energy’s Clean Energy Plan for Michigan—marked by zero coal and net zero carbon emissions by 2040—that is quickly adding more renewables and battery storage. Learn more at MICleanEnergy.com.
POWERING THROUGH TOGETHER
The year 2020 will be forever etched in our memories. While Michigan was among the hardest-hit states for COVID-19, the crisis strengthened resolve and united businesses and communities throughout Pure Michigan.
It all began around March 10 when Michigan confirmed its first two COVID-19 cases and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency.
As health care professionals and other first responders defended the front lines, Consumers Energy mobilized personnel to ensure essential electricity and natural gas kept flowing.
In support of safety, Michigan’s largest utility was one of the first businesses to require all employees to work from home, if their duties allowed. The company also launched a special website to provide customers with timely updates at ConsumersEnergy.com/coronavirus.
The crisis changed almost daily statewide with reports of new cases and eventually the first death on March 18. Gov. Whitmer issued her statewide Stay Home, Stay Safe order for all non-essential workers on March 23, and on the same day Consumers Energy President and CEO Patti Poppe announced she and her husband would personally donate $1 million to support small businesses in their hometown of Jackson, MI. Learn more at DreamMakerFund.org.
The Poppe family was not alone. The Consumers Energy Foundation announced a series of grants that provided more than $3.5 million to nonprofits and economic development organizations across the state. The total outreach included $1.8 million to support small business relief efforts.
At the height of the crisis, Consumers Energy supported businesses that pivoted to provide necessary personal protective equipment and other essential needs. Learn more at ConsumersEnergy.com/hometownstories. The utility even added some energy-intensive businesses to a special priority list in case of storm-related outages.
In the Kalamazoo area, Southwest Michigan First, which is focused on cultivating a strong economy and growing jobs, was initially contacted by the local hospital to put out a call for personal protective equipment. In less than a week, local medical device manufacturer Tekna collaborated with others to transition from prototype to production on a face shield.
A foodservice packaging company formed and cut the plastic shields while a metals and plastics company machined the plastic to shape. Tekna collected and assembled all the components (foam, elastic and plastic shield) and then delivered them to local hospitals and essential businesses.
Meanwhile in Northern Michigan, Shaggy’s Copper Country Skis transitioned its Boyne City factory from making custom skis to pumping out thousands of anti-fog face and eye shields—all in an effort to protect frontline workers in hospitals, clinics and labs.
Owner Jeff Thompson posted about their willingness and ability to help on the company’s Facebook page. A few days later, he was at the area hospital with his pregnant wife, who gave birth to a daughter. The hospital had called Shaggy’s the day before and was going to drop off samples, but since he was already at the hospital, a rep came to the room and dropped off some sample face and eye shields.
Initially, as many as 10 Shaggy’s employees helped produce the shields. The business then teamed with 1-800-Stencil, a business owned by Jeff’s brother, to add more hands to the production and produce more than 150,000 shields.
Consumers Energy is the largest combination utility in Michigan, providing natural gas and/or electricity to 6.7 million residents. With a focus on people, planet and Michigan’s prosperity, the company’s 8,700 employees are building the future of Michigan.
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