Senator puts blame on Whitmer for closure of Evart factory
Over 100 jobs lost as a result
LANSING -- An area business is closing and Sen. Curt VanderWall puts the blame on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's response to the coronavirus.
VanderWall, a Ludington Republican, who's district includes Osceola, Lake and Mason counties, addressed the state Senate floor Wednesday regarding the economic destruction the governor's decisions have caused in his district.
"Last week I shared the story of a family-owned business in my district -- the Big Cat Brewery -- that announced it was permanently closing its doors," he said.
"Sadly, this is far from the only such story in my district," he added. "The Vitro Glass factory was Evart's second biggest employer, until it also recently announced its permanent closure and the loss of 125 jobs."
Vitro's decision to closed the plant came in early April. In a letter to the state dated April 8, it cited "the dramatic and unforeseen impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our business and our customers' businesses" as the reason for the closure.
Its closure will affect more than the loss of 125 jobs.
"In addition to the loss of jobs, they were one of the city's major sewer and water users, and that will impact the city's budget," Evart City Manager Sarah Dvoracek said. "We are already making adjustments in order to get ahead of it, with respect to our budget."
On Monday, Whitmer announced that counties in the U.P. and northern Michigan may open Friday. But according to Vanderwall, it's a little too late.
"Thirty-four days after Senate Republicans first urged our governor to take into account the different experiences of different parts of our state with this virus, she has finally done so," he said. "Unfortunately, her long-delayed action is raising as many questions and concerns as her inaction did."
Vanderwall pointed to the counties bordering the line between open and closed.
As of Wednesday, Lake County had three cases of coronavirus, Osceola County had 10, Mason County had 28 and Ogemaw had 20. No deaths have been reported in those counties, according to state records.
"Why are Mason, Lake, Osceola and Ogemaw counties closed while many of their neighbors will open this weekend?" Vanderwall asked. "Where is the data to support these decisions? Do any communities in any of our districts have an understanding of how close or how far away they are from reopening?
"This week, the mayor of Detroit announced he believes the city is ready to reopen. Wayne County has had nearly 20,000 COVID-19 cases. And maybe they are ready to reopen -- the mayor certainly knows his city better than I do. But if Detroit is ready, how are Mason, Lake, Ogemaw and Osceola counties and their ... combined cases not ready?"
Whitmer's executive order extending the state's lockdown until May 28 has drawn criticism, leading to several protests organized outside the state capitol, the latest involving free hair cuts Wednesday.
"The people of Michigan are frustrated," Vanderwall said. "They're scared. And they're suffering. And a lack of transparency and clarity from our governor is only compounding the problem.
"COVID-19 has devastated parts of our state. But for others, the devastation -- real devastation -- has been economic, not medical. And while Monday's announcement by our governor was a long-overdue small step forward for some parts of our state, others remain in a state of economic destruction that could have and should have been avoided. "
Herald Review reporter Cathie Crew contributed to this story.