(WWJ) An entrepreneur in Michigan's Upper Peninsula is behind billboards around metro Detroit encouraging everyone to reopen their businesses next week — regardless of what the governor's executive orders say.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has been slowly allowing some business sectors closed due to COVID-19 to reopen, beginning with construction and manufacturing, but Erik Kiilunen says it's time to get everyone working again.
"I've worked too long and too hard to just roll over and say, you know, 'Yes, governor, this is what we're gonna do," Kiilunen told WWJ's Zach Clark. "Let's just everyone who's in business in Michigan rise as one on May 21st — take yourself back to work."
Kiilunen — a small business owner in Keweenaw County, where no coronavirus cases have been reported — has launched a GoFundMe page to rent the billboards that say "All Business Is Essential."
While Kiilunen doesn't totally discount the health risks, he says the state is committing economic suicide.
And it seems, he says, that Whitmer doesn't trust Michigan businesses to operate safely.
"Everybody's worried about loss of life, and I don't talk that down; it's critical," Kiilunen told Clark. "But you start looking at these analogies of people who have built businesses, and put their heart and soul into them, to be told that — it seems quite arbitrary, it seems quite on a whim — that stand down, don't do anything."
The fundraiser has already netted over $26,200 to advertise what Kiilunen is calling "Take Yourself To Work Day."
"All business is essential, our government has selected which businesses they think are essential," he writes on the GoFundMe page. "This is the height of arrogance. Ask a single mother running a hair salon and using the profits generated to care for her special needs child if her business is important......all business is essential and very important!"
"I will use all funds collected to start a billboard campaign in Michigan to pressure our Governor to open the state by encouraging business owners of all sizes to engage in Economic Disobedience by opening their place of business regardless of executive orders," Kiilunen continues. "The public can make the educated choice if they think it's safe to enter your establishment or use your services."
Whitmer said at her latest news conference that the declining daily case counts are a cause for "cautious optimism" — but we must all continue to do our part — including staying home when we can, and wearing masks when we go out. The stay-home order, which Whitmer is now calling "Safer at Home," remains in effect through May 28.