NAM CEO Jay Timmons Hits Airwaves To Push For Masks

The National Association of Manufacturers takes to TV in politically volatile midwestern states with a message: Want to save the nation’s economy from disaster? Put a mask on. Now.

As Covid-19 cases rise in parts of the U.S., the National Association of Manufacturers has a message: Want to save the nation’s economy from disaster? Put a mask on. Now.

The powerful trade group, increasingly concerned about the strength of the U.S. economic rebound post-Covid, this week launched an ad campaign in politically volatile manufacturing states including Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio aimed at making a direct connection between wearing masks and reopening the economy.

“There is no way to sugarcoat this—we need to get America back to work now and get our economy roaring again,” NAM’s CEO Jay Timmons said in a statement that accompanied the ad. “The virus is spreading in a significant way, and if it continues, that will lead to economic devastation the likes of which we have never seen before.”

The one-minute television spot opens with scenes of huge crowds at some of college football’s most storied stadiums, then ominously shifts to explaining that the death toll in the U.S. from Covid-19 is already far larger than the capacity at any of these facilities—and will continue to grow without the widespread use of masks in public spaces.

Timmons’ move is nothing if not pragmatic. As anyone reading this knows, manufacturers throughout the country are deeply vulnerable to the virus. Already at the vanguard of efforts to halt the spread of Covid, with hundreds of thousands of factory workers operating under strict new safety codes, manufacturing CEOs have little choice but to wrestle directly with the spread of illness. Unlike their colleagues in professional services or software businesses, they don’t have the option of sending their entire workforce home to operate remotely. They’ve been forced to figure things out, adding expense and uncertainty that will likely last as long as the virus persists.

That’s why this isn’t first time Timmons has shown himself to be unafraid of blunt talk on Covid-19, and likely won’t be the last. In April, he called protestors around the country pushing for a rapid reopening “IDIOTS” (caps his) who were putting lives at risk.

If anything, he’s become even blunter since then. “There are no excuses left,” he wrote this week. “While we have learned more and more about this deadly virus, the guidance from our nation’s health care experts has evolved. Today, we know that the best and most certain way to stop the spread is for everyone to wear a facial covering. It isn’t fun. It isn’t pleasant. But through shared responsibility, we can get this pandemic under control and save small businesses and jobs. That’s why the NAM is taking this message across the country. Our economy depends on it, jobs depend on it and—most importantly—lives depend on it.”

Dan Bigman
Dan Bigman is Editor and Chief Content Officer of Chief Executive Group, publishers of Chief Executive, Corporate Board Member, ChiefExecutive.net and Boardmember.com. Previously he was Managing Editor at Forbes and the founding business editor of NYTimes.com.