President Trump on Friday rolled out the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative, a group of business and union leaders who will advise the administration on how to promote a manufacturing revival in America.
The group includes some big names in American business, including U.S. Steel CEO Mario Longhi and Tesla CEO Elon Musk. The White House said Trump plans to regularly seek information and perspective from the diverse group, which will be led by Dow Chemical Co. Chairman and CEO Andrew Liveris.
“There are a variety of issues we need to take a look at. It’s more than a simple piece of legislation.”
Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul, one of the group’s members, noted that economic data released Friday shows the economy grew at an anemic 1.9 percent rate in the last quarter of 2016. He rejected arguments of some economists that the nation’s long-running trade deficit does not matter.
“Economically, it actually does,” he said, contending that the trade imbalance shaves 1.7 percentage points off the growth rate.
Manufacturing is key to a healthy economy, Paul said, because factories tend to have a large number of employees — earning better-than-average wages — as well as support other companies up and down long supply chains. Meanwhile, factory employees help sustain other jobs in a community through the things they buy.
“It supports and entire ecosystem,” he said.
Beyond trade reform, Paul said business leaders will be looking for tax reform, better working training, infrastructure investments and other policies. He said he supports “buy American” provisions such Trump’s executive order mandating American-made pipes used in a pair of oil pipeline projects.
Other businesses are interested in rolling back regulations, Paul said.
“There are a variety of issues we need to take a look at,” he said. “It’s more than a simple piece of legislation.
Kevin Kearns, president of the U.S. Business & Industry Council, said the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative appears to be a fulfillment of a program Trump announced along with Liveris in Michigan last month.
He noted that the list of participants is heavy on representatives of large and multinational corporations.
“It would be a good idea if the president expanded the council to include small and midsize domestic manufacturers who don’t play the outsourcing game,” said Kearns, whose organization represents family-owned and closely held manufacturing companies.
Kearns noted that the Commerce Department already has a manufacturing council, but it does not have labor representation. The Manufacturing Jobs Initiative will include Richard Trumka, president of the ALF-CIO and other union leaders.
“It’s a good thing that he’s reaching out to labor leaders,” Kearns said.
Paul agreed, noting that his own organization is the product of a joint union-manufacturing collaboration.
“There’s a huge upside to having labor and business in the same room,” he said.
Kearns said for too long the focus of policymakers has been on trying to improve education and job training programs while largely maintaining the status quo. But he said job retraining programs have a mostly lackluster record.
“Retraining programs don’t in and of themselves create jobs,” he said. “All these programs do is create jobs for educators and trainers.”
Kearns said Trump needs to put together a comprehensive program to counter the much more sophisticated policies of Germany, Japan, China and other trade competitors where government and business are much more closely intertwined.
“The trick for Trump and his team is to develop a national industrial strategy that works,” he said.
Initial business leaders assisting with the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative include:
- Andrew Liveris, The Dow Chemical Company
- Bill Brown, Harris Corporation
- Michael Dell, Dell Technologies
- John Ferriola, Nucor Corporation
- Jeff Fettig, Whirlpool Corporation
- Mark Fields, Ford Motor Company
- Ken Frazier, Merck & Co., Inc.
- Alex Gorsky, Johnson & Johnson
- Greg Hayes, United Technologies Corp.
- Marilynn Hewson, Lockheed Martin Corporation
- Jeff Immelt, General Electric
- Jim Kamsickas, Dana Inc.
- Klaus Kleinfeld, Arconic
- Brian Krzanich, Intel Corporation
- Rich Kyle, The Timken Company
- Thea Lee, AFL-CIO
- Mario Longhi, U.S. Steel
- Denise Morrison, Campbell Soup Company
- Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing
- Elon Musk, Tesla
- Doug Oberhelman, Caterpillar
- Scott Paul, Alliance for American Manufacturing
- Kevin Plank, Under Armour
- Mike Polk, Newell Brands
- Mark Sutton, International Paper
- Inge Thulin, 3M
- Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO
- Wendell Weeks, Corning