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UP man uses billboards to tell rest of Michigan: Let’s work

May 12, 2020 GMT

AHMEEK, Mich. (AP) — An entrepreneur in the Upper Peninsula is responsible for billboards in Michigan’s urban areas that are encouraging people to reopen businesses on May 21, even if coronavirus restrictions haven’t been lifted.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has been slowly giving a green light to parts of the economy, including manufacturing this week. But Erik Kiilunen said it’s time to get everyone working.

He told MLive.com that the governor doesn’t seem to trust businesses to operate safely.

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“The American citizen has no obligation to sit idly by while his savings and his livelihood are bled dry,” Kiilunen said.

Kiilunen is in Keweenaw County, a peninsula in the northwestern Upper Peninsula, where no coronavirus cases have been reported. He’s the co-founder of Neuvokas Corp., which makes fiber-reinforced rebar for new buildings and roads, and has other businesses.

“I’m smart enough to know what risk is. The risk up here is minuscule,” Kiilunen said of the virus.

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist visited Neuvokas last fall.

The billboards in the Detroit area, Grand Rapids and Lansing say, “All Business Is Essential.” Kiilunen has raised more than $25,000 through a GoFundMe page. He calls May 21 “Michigan Take Yourself to Work Day.”

Whitmer’s office acknowledged sacrifices made by Michigan residents during the coronavirus outbreak but said the virus still is a “very real threat” and certain restrictions are necessary.