March 4 was an eternity ago. Although COVID- 19 storm clouds were already gathering, our OhioBev Legislative Day dawned cool and bright. Over 100 members from around Ohio met with legislators, briefing them on industry leadership initiatives in calorie management and plastics recycling. We also explained our critical need for more CDL drivers to deliver our products.
Three and half weeks later, Ohio and the world grapples with the deadly Coronavirus. And what plays on a loop in my mind is our Legislative Day discussions about driver shortages. These pressures existed before Governor DeWine and Dr. Amy Acton’s daily press briefings on COVID- 19 and now they are playing out daily in our industry.
One of my comforts in these troubling times is the leadership of Governor DeWine and his team, including Lt. Governor Husted, Dr. Amy Acton and many others. I am also so encouraged by the incredible support and help I have received from fellow association executives in allied industries, including Ohio Grocers Association, Ohio Council of Retail Merchants, Ohio Trucking Association and the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. Together we have advocated for important tools such extended hours of service for our truck drivers, simplified heavy truck weight waivers, and extensions for expiring CDL licenses.
Our legislative leaders and business champions in the DeWine administration have helped in these uncertain times where grocery shelves are picked clean within hours of restocking essentials such as bottled water. We are grateful for the support and understanding that our industry, as a federally defined part of Ohio’s critical infrastructure, has received.
Governor DeWine is working on ways to better connect industries like ours who have new job opportunities to Ohioans looking for employment. Like our friends in the retail grocery channel, we need merchandisers, warehouse workers and drivers. I am very hopeful that what is building now on this effort will help us find more workers now and into the future. Ohioans have an unbeatable work ethic and that is needed now more than ever.
And our members are stepping up for their retail customers and for their employees. Aside from working unprecedented hours on retail resupply work, our member companies are maintaining scrupulous cleaning schedules at all facilities. Additionally, many are offering bonuses and extended insurance benefits to respond to medical and behavioral health needs brought by COVID- 19. Or thoughtful touches such as giving employees gift cards and products in appreciation of work above and beyond their normal work schedules.
Finally, OhioBev members are finding ways to reach out beyond their daily work to help their communities. In the coming weeks, I will share some of these stories like ABARTA Coca-Cola repurposing their in-house print shop to create more signage for their local hospitals in Cuyahoga County and many more.
This spirit of community gets me through the frustration and fear that is our new reality. And I have never been prouder of representing nearly 10,000 hardworking Ohioans in this great industry.