Since March, North Carolina’s business community has consistently expressed its commitment to keeping people healthy and safe. Any closures, even temporarily, to portions of manufacturing and related industries would create notable economic and attendant headwinds for millions of North Carolinians. While the most obvious practices include personal protective equipment, social distancing, hand washing and related sanitizing efforts – safety evidences itself in many forms.
Manufacturing and delivering critical supplies, services, and daily essentials to the people of North Carolina is a key part of safety. It is manufacturers who are not only working to arm frontline workers with the resources and PPE they need to protect and save lives, but also providing the items necessary for both comfort and survival during these uncertain times. Additionally, with the second-largest animal processing and manufacturing cluster in the U.S., North Carolina is an indispensable component of our nation’s food supply chains.
Manufacturing generates nearly 21 percent of North Carolina’s total output and employs 10.8 percent of our state’s workforce. Any undue disruption to operations threatens to undermine critical lifelines to many communities in our state and beyond. While North Carolina has fared better with the recovery of professional services and trade, transportation, and utility sectors this year, the state fared worse in the recovery of the manufacturing, education and health, and construction sectors. The manufacturing sector lost 7.9 percent of its jobs, which is 3.3 percent more than the regional median and a difference of almost 16,000 manufacturing jobs. Our state cannot afford further disruption to this critical industry.
“While employers respect and appreciate the severity of this pandemic, our collective experience reveals that the current level of viral spread is not attributable to the manufacturing industry, or others, but rather degrees of COVID-fatigue,” said Gary J. Salamido, president and CEO of the NC Chamber, the state’s exclusive state affiliate for the National Association of Manufacturers. “While the loosened commitment to the 3Ws is concerning, we cannot pin blame on our state’s employers. Particularly when many employees continue to observe that they feel their safest at work, due to the rigorous protocols and related governance employers have systematically put in place.”
North Carolina employees recognize the vital work that they are performing to support our critical infrastructure industries and essential services, and they are committed to delivering the very best products and services at this important time.
Public officials continue to emphasize that data is guiding our state’s response to this pandemic. It is imperative that articulated approach be applied to every scenario, especially when it comes to how we manage essential parts of our state’s economy.
As our state and nation are nearing the rollout of what appears to be a highly effective vaccine, we must stay the course by reaffirming and evidencing our commitment to proven health and safety protocols to continue keeping people meaningfully employed and supply chains moving. Such wise actions will appropriately serve to protect the general health, safety, and welfare of all North Carolinians.