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Local Expert Says Coronavirus Likely To Impact Ohio Businesses

Workers on the Honda assembly line in Marysville, Ohio.
Steve Brown
Workers build Honda Accords at the Honda factory in Marysville, Ohio

A local expert on China says the coronavirus outbreak has already impacted some Ohio businesses.

Mahesh Srinivasan, a professor at the University of Akron’s Institute for Global Business, says some tire and medical implant manufacturers have seen disruptions in their rubber supply chain.

However, two main factors have delayed the impact elsewhere: Tariffs have forced some businesses to find alternate supply sources outside China, while there’s an annual disruption in supply that occurs around Chinese New Year.

Srinivasan says these factors led businesses to build up their inventory in the past few months. The longer the coronavirus crisis goes on, the greater the impact could be on businesses, but Srinivasan says consumers shouldn’t be too worried.

“I certainly don’t want to create a panic, and I think there’s no reason for us as consumers to panic at all,” he says.

On the other side, Srinivasan says companies like GOJO, the Akron-based Purell manufacturer and frozen food makers are expecting increases in demand as people look to protect themselves, and anticipate not going out to buy things like fresh groceries.

Srinivasan says the biggest disruption for businesses may come in their supply chains for parts needed to manufacture a product in America. He estimates hundreds of Ohio businesses could be affected.

In the supply industry, Srinivasan says events like the coronavirus outbreak are referred to as “known-unknown” situations.

“You think about SARS, Ebola, H1N1, these can happen, but the problem is there’s no consistent pattern or history, so to assess the impact is really difficult, it’s really speculative,” he says.

Srinivasan says whatever the impact is will likely last until after many of the closed factories in China reopen. He says the companies who own the factories are conscious of their employee’s health needs, and are taking cues from the Chinese government concerning when to allow people to return to work.

Aaron McDade is a senior journalism major at Kent State University, set to graduate in the spring. He has worked as an assigning editor and a reporter for the Kent Stater, the university’s student-run newspaper and plans to pursue a career in sports journalism after graduation. His interests include sports and politics.