Coronavirus: Clark County companies adapt to state order, some to cease production

Liz Wikoff, an associate at Topre, works on a 600 ton press in the stamping department of the Springfield factory in 2019. Topre announced on Monday that it would be temporarily stopping production at its Springfield facility for at least two weeks. BILL LACKEY/STAFF
Liz Wikoff, an associate at Topre, works on a 600 ton press in the stamping department of the Springfield factory in 2019. Topre announced on Monday that it would be temporarily stopping production at its Springfield facility for at least two weeks. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Businesses in Clark County are adjusting to a statewide stay-at-home order that has called for non-essential businesses to close until at least April 6.

Several area manufacturers have decided to temporarily suspend production as the COVID-19, or coronavirus, pandemic has impacted supply chains especially in the auto industry. Other local companies are complying with the statewide stay-at-home order issued Sunday by continuing on as essential businesses or temporarily ceasing operations in order to comply with the new guidelines.

Navistar announced Monday that it would be suspending production on both of its assembly lines in Springfield for two weeks citing a disruption in its supply chain. However, the plant will remain open with some employees working in a non-production capacity, said Chris Blizard, the president of UAW Local 402.

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That union represents assembly production workers as well as those in skilled trades at the Springfield plant. Blizard said up to 1,000 UAW Local 402 members will be temporarily out of work during those two weeks.

The company was originally planning a down week on the main line at its Springfield location that would have been this week. It was originally due to a lack of medium-duty truck orders, according to a February bulletin from UAW Local 402. However, Navistar has decided to temporarily suspend all production at the facility due to the evolving coronavirus pandemic, according to a news release from the company.

Navistar’s Springfield plant assembles medium-duty commercial trucks as well as cutaway vans for General Motors. GM confirmed last week that it would begin a systematic orderly suspension of manufacturing operations in North America. That decision is due to market conditions and to deep clean its facilities, according to information provided by the United Auto Workers union. That suspension is slated to last at least until March 30.

Topre America, an auto parts maker that has a facility in Springfield, announced Monday that it would be suspending production in the area for two weeks in order to comply with state guidelines set by Gov. Mike DeWine. The company’s Vice President Brad Pepper also added that its Springfield facility will be closed during that time.

He said workers impacted by the company’s decision will be able to use vacation time. Several companies that Topre has contracts with such as Honda and Toyota have also announced temporary ceases in production.

Honda, with several plants in Ohio and Indiana, announced it would cease production for at least six days, starting on Monday.

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“With suppliers shutting down, it is certainly going to have an impact on the supply chain,” said Horton Hobbs, vice president of economic development for the Chamber of Greater Springfield.

“A lot of our manufacturers are playing it by ear. For those that are considered essential, it is business as usual. The rest are trying to figure out what the stay-at-home order will mean for their business,” he added.

Hobbs said that the county has a strong agriculture and food related presence and manufacturers that work in the food production industry are considered essential in terms of the recent state-wide order. He said that applies to many of the county’s manufactures and employers.

Also considered essential businesses are restaurants that are currently providing carryout and delivery services as well as gas stations, convenience stores, hardware shops and grocery stores to name a few.

For Speedway, it means continuing preventive measures that were implemented earlier this month, including providing hand sanitizer stations at its stores. The company has also implemented business-continuity plans to accommodate staffing needs in the event of illness-related absenteeism as well as working with critical suppliers to ensure ongoing support in the event of illness-related disruptions.

Speedway spokesperson Christian Holfinger said the company has “moved to work from home for our office employees wherever possible, practicing social distancing for store employees and those employees who have to work in our offices, and adjusting our store-level operations to align with evolving state and local guidance.”