How manufacturers can help in the fight against COVID-19

Life has changed dramatically for everyone in the last few weeks as the COVID-19 virus – coronavirus – has spread around the world. Schools have closed, businesses have been shuttered and everyone is practicing “social distancing” to prevent the further spread of the virus which protects our most vulnerable in our communities. 

Although we are now fighting a much different foe, America has been challenged like this before and we as a nation came together to win. 

How can our businesses come together to help now? 

The Manufacturers’ Association has a blueprint from our industrial past which brought together communities and industry to fight a world war – the York Plan. If you are not familiar with The York Plan, simply put, it was a community wide effort that emerged during WWII to coordinate US industrial production in support of the war effort. Manufacturers banded together for the first time to share workers, retrain the workforce, coordinate equipment and machinery utilization, and mobilized our small manufacturers to meet the demands of war. 

The York Plan was launched by The Manufacturers’ Association and put into action by our industrial leaders in a partnership with the federal government which allowed manufacturers to convert production in a winning effort to support a wartime demand. This blueprint which started here, spread across our country and brought to bear the industrial might of America to win the war. 

As we manage this current crisis and begin to understand the impact on the US and global economy, manufacturing can again play a critical role in our recovery. 

First, essential manufacturing companies and their supply chains will continue to produce and ramp up production to keep the economy afloat. 

Second, manufacturers are checking inventory to donate supplies to help the frontline first responders and hospitals to battle the virus. 

Third, the manufacturers with the ability to retool are already challenging themselves to convert production that will enable them to manufacture the medical supplies and products needed for the healthcare community. 

Finally, manufacturers will continue to provide family sustaining careers that are almost 20% of our local economy – twice the size of the national manufacturing economy. We can also try to redirect those who may have lost their jobs to manufacturers who need to fill vacant jobs to meet the demand during this crisis. 

We will get through this. The Manufacturers’ Association just celebrated its 114th year supporting the manufacturing community in southcentral PA. We have witnessed many challenges: a Great Depression, two World Wars, globalization of the economy and many other events, but we and our community survived and thrived. 

The York Plan for 2020 is different from the WWII era, but at its core it is still the same. Our advantage today is that we have many more resources available to address these challenges which the Manufacturers’ Association and its’ members can leverage to redeploy the York Plan: county economic development, business chambers, workforce development boards, MANTEC, technical schools and countless community-based organizations. 

The mantra of the York Plan was to “do what you can with what you have” – and fortunately for our communities what we “have” today is greater than in the past; Now what can be “done” today is much more powerful and will help us defeat another global threat.

Tom Palisin is the executive director of The Manufacturers’ Association based in Emigsville, PA. He can be reached at 717-893-3891 or at tpalisin@mascpa.org

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