Builders, contractors push to be allowed to work

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Builders and contractors across the state are demanding Gov. Gretchen Whitmer allow them to get back to work, as her latest executive order doesn’t change any restrictions on construction work.  

“It was quite frankly a big disappointment that we aren’t able to get our workers back to work,” said Jeff Wiggins, state director for the Association of Builders and Contractors of Michigan

According to Wiggins, the safety measures proposed have proved successful in neighboring states that allow construction work, as well as the active Michigan job sites that are exempt from the order.  

“We’re starting to stick out like a sore thumb and our workers are noticing,” Wiggins said. “If (other states) can be safe and they can go back to work, then why can’t we?” 

As job sites sit empty, workers struggle to provide for their families.  

The financial hit has the potential to impact major companies and employers, like Pioneer Construction in Grand Rapids.  

“Michigan’s builders and contractors have implemented proven work-safe plans, they’ve shared those plans with Governor Whitmer, and it’s imperative she listens to both the workers her orders are devastating and the data that clearly says they can safely return to work,” said Chris Beckering, executive vice president of pioneer construction in a statement released Friday.  

Pioneer Constructions employs around 300 local tradesmen and women.  

“It’s a big impact on the West Michigan economy,” Wiggins said. “You can’t drive through downtown Grand Rapids without seeing a Pioneer Construction crane, they’re literally building the city.” 

Independent contractors, like Michael Kooienga of Grandville, were also disappointed by the governor’s latest order. 

“I feel that as a small operation myself that we could safely work,” Kooienga said. “There’s a lot of us (independent contractors), hundreds, if not thousands, in the same situation that I’m in.”  

Another local contractor has a different take, as Dominic Sorenson, owner and operator of Vada Contracting, trusts the governor’s decision.  

“I think staying closed is the safest bet and it’s the only legal choice at this point,” Sorenson said. 

Whitmer didn’t speak about the construction sector directly during her press conference Friday. But she did say she is willing to work with business leaders in any industry, as well as medical professionals, to come up with a plan that will get them back to work safely.