Pfizer feared panic in closing Michigan operations -- Granholm book

| Friday, September 30, 2011
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I wasn't sure I wanted to read former Gov. Jennifer Granholm's memoir, "A Governor's Story." Michigan had been through a terrible eight years during her two terms as governor and reliving it through Granholm's words didn't seem like the most positive way to spend my time.

But I also was curious to learn her insider's view of economic events that I'd covered as a journalist on the outside, so I took the plunge. What I found were some fascinating and sometimes maddening situations recounted by the governor. Over the next few days, I'll write about a few of them.

The first involves a phone call Granholm took on January 22, 2007 from Pfizer Inc. CEO Jeffery Kindler.

Kindler, like Granholm, was a Harvard grad. He'd even held a re-election fundraiser for her. But this was no social call. Kindler was calling to tell Granholm that Pfizer was closing its huge research center in Ann Arbor--the city's largest taxpayer--and several facilities in West Michigan as part of a larger corporate downsizing.

After the bombshell public announcement, Pfizer spokesmen were telling reporters that they didn't know how many jobs would be lost, especially in West Michigan. They said, among other things, that some who would be losing their jobs might be staying with the company in other capacities and that the exact number of jobs being eliminated hadn't been determined.

A Pfizer spokesman I like and respect reiterated to me this week that the company's top brass had not given him a specific job loss number in 2007.

But Kindler was much more specific with Granholm, according to her recollection of their conversation.

"Actually, between Ann Arbor and Kalamazoo, it's about 5,000" jobs, Granholm quoted Kindler as saying. "But we're not going to give out the numbers publicly because we don't want people to panic."

No wonder cynicism is an occupational hazard for journalists.

1 comment:

Nathan Bomey said...

This is interesting, Rick. Thanks for catching this. 5,000 is far from accurate, though. The real number was fewer than 3,000. Wonder how the discrepancy occurred.

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