Today I was able to visit some open garden centers around the region. It was great to see the importance that is being put on customer and employee safety. This is so important! We have promised our industry will set the standard for safety and we need to show we mean what we say. As one of the first industries allowed to re-open we will be under the microscope statewide. Now the media is doing segments on how we are handling being open and seeing if we are following the rules as we have laid out. This is where the rubber hits the road, showing just how seriously we take this. Just remember that the rules can be changed just as fast to close our businesses again if we are seen as a problem in safety. Keep up the great work and make sure you have everything you need to be open.
Now that retail greenhouses and garden centers are allowed to be open, I will not be doing a briefing every day. You have too much to do and I hope I don’t have as much to send out affecting our industry. I will send out briefings as I have news that I think is important. I hope the Michigan Greenhouse Growers Council and our daily briefing has been helpful in keeping you up to speed with what was going on in the state. If you have any questions or comments please don’t hesitate to send them to us.
I am hearing rumors that Governor Whitmer will announce some relaxations of the rules of the Stay at Home Order in her 3 pm press conference tomorrow. The Detroit News reported her statement today: “We need to keep it up. I’m hoping to say more on when we can start loosening restrictions as soon as Friday of this week,” Whitmer said.
This could possibly mean online, delivery or curbside or allowing some retail with safety restrictions. I think this is still in flux and I have heard this type of thing a couple of other days, but it was pulled back before it was announced. Hopefully tomorrow she will begin to allow the economy to get back on track at some level. This was in an alert from MIRS news this afternoon: Gov. Gretchen WHITMER is expected to announce Friday, along with an emergency powers resolution extension, the ability for Michigan residents to golf and motorboat as long as proper social distancing measures are followed and other safety precautions are made. The Governor is also expected to allow the paint and gardening sections of larger stores to reopen if safety precautions are followed, a dial back of her Executive Order 2020-42, which generated significant public agitation, sources tell MIRS.
My source tells me she may allow garden centers to do the same as the big box stores for the gardening items. This is all still rumor until we hear from Governor Whitmer tomorrow afternoon. Let’s hope we finally get some good news tomorrow.
Today’s message will be short since there is no real changes to what we know. The Governor held a press conference today and what we got were a lot of mixed signals about what and when the next steps will be happening. She said there will probably be a short extension of the stay home order but there may be some relaxation of the rules. I have heard she is looking at Friday for her next announcement. Our media campaign is still going very well with media contacts around the state. Here are a few of them.
Please continue to get our message out on social media by sharing any posts that help our cause. On our weekly MDARD call today there was no signal about when we could expect to be allowed to re-open and I asked for them to give us a few days notice, if possible, to get staff trained and have stores ready to go. I will try to get more info and will share as soon as I can.
Now for the bad news….. the USDA has sent out a release today letting us know they have found Ralstonia in Michigan. I don’t have any more information yet other than what they put in their release. I will try to find out more about this as soon as I can
Keep up the great work sharing our message on Facebook and other social media platforms! It is getting to all parts of the state many times over. Thank you.
Today the Michigan Greenhouse Growers Council sent a letter to Governor Whitmer outlining how Michigan retail greenhouses and garden centers would keep their employees and customers safe in these difficult times. The letter showed that retail greenhouses and garden centers can and are ready to operate safely, protecting customers from COVID-19. It goes on to state that we are encouraged by your commitment to allowing jobsites to safely re-open and your hope to begin the process by May 1st. Michigan greenhouses and garden centers are ready to be a part of that first phase and having a May 1st target date in mind would help employers begin to accelerate training for new safety processes in locations across the state.
It is our responsibility to operate in a safe way, and garden centers can. Michigan garden centers can and are ready to do what our neighbors in Ohio are already doing as they operate during this time. We have taken and are taking many important and carefully targeted steps to ensure our operations are safe, including changes in the way we do business to:
Offer online shopping, call ahead orders, curbside pickup or delivery as available
Limit the number of customers near the cash registers and in the store at any given time. Many retailers are marking the floor in check-out lines to encourage social distancing.
Sanitize all carts, baskets, door handles throughout the day, as well as credit card pads
Require staff members to sanitize regularly
Have hand sanitizer available for consumers and staff at the checkout
Require social distancing between staff and customers in the store, grounds and greenhouses. Greenhouses are so large, social distancing is not hard and the person per square foot guidelines are easily met.
We also respectfully ask any individual- whether a customer or an employee – exhibiting even minor symptoms to stay home.
We then go on to show examples of Michigan garden centers and greenhouses leading the way in working safe, even during the current downtime and give several examples of what centers have already put in place getting ready to open. You can read the entire letter Letter to Governor Whitmer – Work Safe Plan_FINAL. We have sent out a MGGC Release_WorkSafePlansReady_4.20.2020 and already have several press inquiries for media. If you get contacted, be ready to talk about how you are ready to open safely and discuss the steps your business is taking to keep people safe.
Now is the time to make sure your business is ready for business, with all of the safety precautions in place. Everyone needs to have a safety plan ready to implement it when you open. The Governor has signaled that she is willing to look at re-opening our economy and we need to lead during the first phase, so that we can set an example for all.
As you have probably heard, the $350 billion SBA loan funding has already run out of money. If you have received a notice that you have been approved, you will get your money. If you have not been approved yet, keep trying. Congress is working to add money to the pot so more people can take advantage of the program. There is political bickering about what to put into the bill so it has not been advanced yet to fund more small businesses payroll costs. Now would be a good time to reach out to your Congressperson or Senators in Washington to tell them to pass the funding now and worry about other funding issues later. We don’t have time for political games from either side, there is too much at stake.
The Governor continues to discuss how businesses in the state will be able to open again soon and laying out the ground rules for this to happen. It seems she is more willing to discuss looking at regions or areas to allow some relaxation of the Executive Order. I view this as a good step forward for our industry and other industries in the state. We need to be sure we are ready to follow new strict guidelines for employee and customer safety when we are allowed to open for retail sales. Have you looked at your plan and made sure your employees are well versed in cleaning protocol and social distancing? If we can be in the first wave of openings, we have to set the gold standard for all businesses in operating safely.
Enjoy your weekend and spend some time with your family.
The Governor has said she wants to see plans for safely opening businesses as we look to start the process of getting our economy back open. The Michigan Greenhouse Growers Council is putting together a letter to show how our industry is ready, willing and able to meet and surpass any requirements on social distancing, cleaning, and limiting numbers of people in the building at any one time. We know there won’t be business as usual once we are able to reopen and need to show our commitment to safety. Make sure your business has a comprehensive plan to reopen, not just doing the things that need to be done, but also have a written plan that can be implemented by all members of your team clearly written out for all parts of the program. It may be a good idea to post it near your required paperwork.
Now is the time to make sure you have all of the supplies you will need to reopen safely. Have you secured enough hand sanitizer, gloves, masks, and cleaning solution to get you through a busy open? Have you secured the plexiglass to shield your cashier stands? Many of the items needed are in short supply, so make sure you are able to keep enough on hand to meet your needs when you are able to reopen.
The Senate workgroup on ‘Safe Behavior for Safe Workplaces’ is asking for you to send feedback to help them understand what Michigan job providers and workers need to get back to work safely. Visit www.MiSafeWorkplaces.com to complete the survey. Help them help us by filling it out for our industry.
Happy Tax Day! In a normal year, today is the day our income taxes are due. But not this year. There is nothing normal about this year. I guess snow today was to be expected. Downtown Lansing was filled to the limit with people wanting to express their displeasure with Governor Whitmer’s extension and expansion of the Stay Home Stay Safe order. From the photos and reports I have seen, Operation Gridlock as it was called, was quite a success for the promoters of the day. I have seen write ups in Newsweek, the Washington Post, Rush Limbaugh and many other national news outlets about the crowds and it will be national news for at least today.
Hopefully this keeps the pressure on the administration to look again at the regulations that are in place for our businesses and make some safe, common sense changes. As you send information to your legislators and the Governor, remind them that garden centers are prepared to keep everyone safe by limiting the number of people in the stores, sanitizing surfaces and keeping customers at a social distance. We can do curbside or delivery for customers who are uncomfortable coming into the business and take online orders. Remind them that we must be able to open May 1 to be able to salvage any kind of season. Keep up the great work!
There has been a lot of confusion around the Governor’s latest Executive Order with some garden centers seeing the 50,000 square foot size for retailers. Some garden centers are opening under the interpretation of the 50,000 sq. ft. language, but they do this at their own risk because on our last MDARD conference call we were told there should be no retail sales of plants. They have certainly muddied the water or they are not communicating between the Governor’s office and MDARD. It sounded like the Governor opened the door for getting back open in her press conference yesterday when she finally started to talk about what has to happen to start easing up on restrictions. She didn’t change any restrictions, but at least she talked about how to get there. She still does not understand the industry, but at least she mentioned it in her comments.
In a call we had with legislators, we were told that the Governor is feeling the pressure from our push to get garden centers at least partially open. We need to keep up the pressure through phone calls and emails to her office. In the Action Alert that we partnered with Michigan Farm Bureau last week her office was contacted over 50,000 times in a couple of days! A new record for them. This shows that our industry is viewed very favorably by the public and we need to continue to engage the public to help keep our message front and center. Share items on Facebook or Instagram such as original content or videos of industry members and their plight as well as articles or blogs that show the damage being done. Write letters to the editor of your local paper and encourage your customers to do the same. Their voices are very powerful for us. Be civil! We are in the right and need to keep our industry above the things that would not put us in a good light. We should not be the only state to not allow any type of sales at garden centers in the nation. Minnesota just allowed their garden centers to open and Illinois has stopped personal shopping at centers, curbside pickup only.Senator Stabenow has signed on to two press releases asking the USDA to make sure that specialty crop producers are compensated for their losses. I have been in contact several times a week with her staff providing information from their Michigan constituents. Her office has been very helpful and I appreciate them reaching out to me. See her press releases urging help for Specialty Crop Producers and COVID-19 Relief for Michigan Farmers .
Please continue to contact your legislators as well as the Governor. Let them know how much you appreciate their support for our industry and ask that they continue to ask the Governor for some relief. We need to continue to support each other in this time of need and help get our garden centers back open.
Don’t forget to watch SBAM’s daily briefing at 3pm hosted by Brian Calley and Rob Fowler for answers to each days questions in real time. Available on Facebook and by Zoom. Check it out.
As this challenging week comes to an end, we still have things we are working towards to help move the industry forward. After the Governor’s executive order, we have been trying to advocate for any type of retail sales in the greenhouse business. This means looking at ways to market products without personal contact or danger of transmitting the disease to our customers or employees. We have been trying to push curbside pickup, delivery or possibly drive through service. I don’t see any changes to the Governor’s order until the infection rate and death rate go down considerably for several days.
Michigan Greenhouse Growers Council has signed on with AmericanHort, as well as several other groups around the country, in a letter to the USDA director Perdue asking for some assistance during this crisis with financial losses due to the government ordered shut down, as ordered by several states. Hopefully this will address the losses of product and sales that have been realized by the industry. Read that letter HERE.
I am still working with Senator Stabenow’s staff on the CARES Act funding for specialty crops and getting the greenhouse industry included in the final determination of need. We have sent several examples of potential losses to them and they are putting the final touches on their proposal to the USDA soon. I hope to hear of our inclusion before long,and will make sure I reach out, as soon as I have information about the application process.
This crisis has been a difficult time for our industry and emotions are running high with no answers to our many questions or a timeline for the end of this crisis. This weekend, take time to look around you at how incredibly blessed we are to have our faith, families and friends to help us through this time of need. I would like to wish everyone a blessed Easter.