Billboards speak out against Stay Home order

Posted at 6:01 PM, May 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-09 16:47:47-04

KEWEENAW COUNTY, Mich. — Most of Michigan is closed for business but one U.P business owner is asking non-essential business to open back up despite the governor’s executive order.

“I’m from about as far north as you can get.” Erik Kiilunen. “I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Keweenaw County,”

If Erik Kiilunen has anything to say about it, the state’s northernmost county won't be an obscure place much longer. Kiilunen says he hopes to plaster the state with a message: all business is essential.

“Most people don’t want to speak their minds,” Kiilunen says his manufacturing company is currently operating despite Governor Whitmer’s executive order not to do so.

“I just made a decision to open our business,” Kiilunen explained. “I asked all of our teammates if they wanted to come back to work, they were welcome. If they didn’t want to come back and they were nervous, they didn’t have to do that,”

His decision to open comes after most of his business dried up.

“I got hit by it.” Kiilunen told FOX 17 “I own two small businesses and I got hit by the orders to shut down. I watched a book of business just vaporize overnight,”

Reopening is a message Kiilunen hopes to take state-wide, raising more than 20 thousand dollars through GoFundMe. He intends to place billboards with his message in major cities across Michigan, including Grand Rapids.

“If you want to fine us, then come and fine us,” Kiilunen says. “It’s just a sad state where we’re in a country where business owners are now penalized for opening up for business and now we’re the criminals. Something just doesn’t strike me right,”

Kiilunen says he disagrees with evidence showing the stay at home order is working and doesn’t believe the coronavirus is a serious of a threat as reported. He is sure 3 of his 10 children had the virus this winter.

“They had all the symptoms of it. They were laid up. It was ugly it was not pretty, but we moved on,” Kiilunen told us.

He says his message is about giving people the choice to be economically disobedient if they’re comfortable with it.

“Get going. Get back to work. My argument is real simple. We’re all adults.” Kiilunen explained. “If we choose to take the chance that we might get coronavirus, and we may ultimately die of it, that’s our decision. That’s all I’m asking. Is for people for people to go with their rights,”

Kiilunen says -so far- he has not been fined.

He is still working on getting those billboards placed including along I-96 but he says he’s faced pushback from companies who are hesitant to share his message.