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How Trade Associations are Helping Companies During the Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has been termed the most serious health and economic challenge to strike the U.S. in generations. COVID-19's impact could not have been anticipated or prepared for by manufacturing companies. The pandemic's unpredictable course has left them scrambling to keep employees safe while continuing to maintain normal operations.

Throughout the crisis, manufacturing trade associations have played a critically important role in providing vital information to their members to help keep them up and running. 20-LB-553 webinar photo

"The trade associations, including the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association and the Valley Industrial Association, have put out their own daily emails, with updates on the COVID situation, updates on Governor Pritzker's orders and very useful webinars on how to keep their employees and customers safe," says Leaders Bank President Bill Gleason.

An example of that value came when employers had to locate quick-scan thermometers able to monitor employees' and others' temperatures. "There were three-month delays," Gleason recalls. "But the trade associations alerted members to the fact another member was manufacturing the thermometers, and could provide them in expedited fashion."

At the Springfield-based Illinois Manufacturers’ Association (IMA), president and CEO Mark Denzler reports members sought timely and accurate information allowing them to continue operating safely within a continually-shifting landscape. The IMA responded with daily email updates offering insights about new health and safety guidelines from the state or federal government. Daily communications included state and federal law changes and fresh guidance on an array of topics, from workers' compensation to truck weights, WARN notices, CARES Act, Payment Protection Program (PPP) loans and more.

Due to the importance of accurate information, IMA opted to update not just members, but all Illinois manufacturers. The association also opened up virtual programming to its partners, including chambers, EDCs and other companies. "Many days, the IMA sent two or three emails as new announcements were made that impacted operations," Denzler says. "The response has been overwhelmingly positive, with countless members indicating our information was the single most important communication they received daily."

20-LB-553 WP photoMeantime, the Geneva, Ill.-based Valley Industrial Association began dispatching its own updates, reports Kathy Gilmore, president of the 200-member company association.

In a daily newsletter that transitioned to weekly June 30, "We kind of [shared] the top five things we found most important that day, including webinars from our partners, updates from the NAM and IMA, and an inspirational thought of the day," Gilmore says.

Legislative efforts

To ensure news it disseminated to members remained current, IMA staff attended every gubernatorial press conference regarding the pandemic. The association worked directly with the governor and his administration, National Association of Manufacturers, Illinois Congressional Delegation and federal agencies like the SBA to remain up to date. The insights gleaned through these efforts enabled the IMA thus far in 2020 to host almost 75 events focused on a wide variety of coronavirus-related issues, Denzler says.

As well as drafting the definition of "essential manufacturing" included in the Governor's executive order, the IMA collaborated with the Retail Merchants Association of Illinois to hike truck weight limits from 80,000 to 88,000 pounds to allow more product to be shipped quickly. The IMA also worked with the business community and the Illinois Department of Employment Security on unemployment insurance claims. In that endeavor, it made sure employers will not be negatively affected by COVID-19-related layoffs, Denzler says.

"The IMA sued the Governor and his Worker's Compensation Commission, and won in court when they tried to illegally change the 'rebuttable presumption' and force employers to cover workers' compensation claims related to COVID-19," he adds.

"Later, the IMA worked with the [Illinois] legislature to pass a balanced measure that protected workers while ensuring good employers are not penalized."

Banking on job banks

IMA and VIA have stayed active in bringing employees and manufacturers together in tough economic times. The IMA launched "Makers Hiring" to showcase available jobs in manufacturing. Nationally, 460,000 open manufacturing jobs exist, tens of thousands in Illinois, Denzler points out. The organization also created the "Healthy Manufacturing Certificate," encouraging member companies to seek training by OSHA-certified trainers and achieve an approved plan meeting CDC, OSHA and WHO guidelines. 

At the same time, the VIA readied the launch of its new job bank for members, Gilmore says. The job bank will enable members to upload their open positions to the bank. "Job seekers will be able to upload their resumes for access by our members," she adds.

Finally, it's noteworthy while its manufacturing sector customers profited from association updates, Leaders Bank itself also benefitted from membership in banking associations. "The Illinois Bankers Association and the American Bankers Association, were extremely helpful in providing information on the PPP funds," Gleason says.

As the COVID-19 crisis continues, Prairie State manufacturers can rest assured associations like the IMA and VIA will furnish updates on the latest pandemic-related news and best practices, to ensure the state's makers continue to operate safely and productively.

Located at 2001 York Road in Oak Brook, Leaders Bank is a premier community commercial bank catering to private business owners, their families and other entrepreneurs. Leaders Bank offers a full spectrum of traditional and customized banking services, Internet-based banking, and online bill payment. To contact Leaders Bank, call (630) 572-5323 or visit

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