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COVID-19 impact on Western New York businesses

We have heard of some companies like local banks suggesting some staffers work from home while branches remain open with enhanced cleaning.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — We've all seen, and are perhaps somewhat surprised, by what's happening in those supermarket aisles as we all get COVID-19 updates.

But what about store stocking and customer demand in the near future? 

There are some experts in academia who specifically study retail operations and supply chain capability. And there's some optimism about the local product pipeline according to professor Nallan Suresh of the UB School of Management. 

"Overall In terms of meeting the overall demand they are certainly capable I think," Suresh said. "They can definitely withstand the next four to six weeks time period in terms of demand."      

Suresh says so far he has not heard of any problems with the trucking industry, even with an ongoing driver shortage, and warehouses are still getting supplies. 

He says retailers like supermarkets actually use demand forecasting analysis to track the need and supply.

Of course we have found that some smaller grocery stores seem to be stocked better than bigger chains. Suresh says, "The larger companies do face their constraints in terms of their sheer size and you're dealing with a larger bureaucracy etcetera but the smaller companies are a lot more agile."   

We have heard of some companies like local banks suggesting some staffers work from home while branches remain open with enhanced cleaning, pre-packaged food and more spacing in the workplace.

The parking lot seemed to be full at the Geico offices in Amherst on Tuesday. They did not return our calls to corporate headquarters in Chevy Chase, Maryland, but some sources indicate some Geico workers could be allowed to work from home as well.

The GM Powertrain Plant in Tonawanda employs 1,200 workers and as of Monday GM was requesting that any workers that could do so to work remotely from home. But obviously that doesn't work for those on the assembly line so the union leaders are concerned.   

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UAW Local 774 President J.R. Baker told 2 On Your Side about those concerns. 

"Spacing, ventilation... also knowing what we have to do as far as wearing gloves or wiping down things," Baker said. "But unfortunately in some cases we don't have those options in there because some many people work hand in hand."

A plant spokeswoman says there are more deep cleanings, sanitation stations, and limits or reductions for in person meetings.

Also 2 On Your Side learned that a task force of the big three US automakers and union officials will meet in Detroit Tuesday night to discuss options. The union would like a two week plant stand-down to evaluate the situation.

That could possibly impact the Ford Woodlawn plant as well.

The coronavirus is also causing some big problems for the West Herr Auto Group. The company laid off about 4 percent of its workforce, roughly 100 people, because of an anticipated decrease in consumer demand. 

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