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John Engler retiring as head of Business Roundtable

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Former Michigan Gov. John Engler said Thursday he plans to retire next year as president of the prominent Business Roundtable – a group of nearly 200 chief executives of major U.S. corporations.

Engler, a Republican who served three terms as governor, joined the Washington-based Roundtable in 2011 after spending six years as president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers.

“The outlook in early 2017 to achieve passage of major components of the Business Roundtable economic growth agenda is very bright,” Engler said in a statement announcing plans to retire as of July 1.

“Tax reform, regulatory relief and immigration reform are all possible with the new administration and Congress. I expect the pace to be brisk as everyone gets to work next year.”

Engler had a different take on the eve of Donald Trump’s nomination at the Republican National Convention earlier this year, telling the New York Times that his association was on the “opposite side of Trump on trade and immigration.” During his campaign, Trump said he would tear up free-trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement and impose taxes to protect American jobs.

“There’s a great sense of frustration here,” Engler told the Times in July. “We’re now faced with two candidates who, when it comes to the United States economy, have diametrically opposite viewpoints from us. It’s cause for great concern.”

The pro-business group endorsed the 12-nation trade deal with Asia known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and had urged Congress to approve the pact this year. Both Trump and his Democratic opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, opposed the TPP.

“We cannot have a robust economy if the goal is to make things here and sell it to ourselves,” Engler told the Associated Press in January.

Engler, 68, is retiring in part for family reasons. He and wife Michelle, who live in Virginia, have triplets, Margaret, Hannah and Madeleine, who are graduating from college in the spring.

Engler also thought it would be a good time as the Roundtable transitions between chairmen. The current chair, Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman, will be succeeded in January by Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co.

“Under John’s stellar leadership, Business Roundtable has enhanced its reputation as a credible voice for an economy that serves all Americans,” Oberhelman said in a statement.

“He has focused on giving policymakers solid research and arguments, reaching across party lines and always keeping a deep belief that the United States is the world’s greatest land of opportunity.”

Engler grew up in Beal City, near Mount Pleasant. He served as governor of Michigan from 1991 to 2002, where his legacy includes signing the state’s first charter school law. Previously, he served in the state Legislature for 20 years, including seven years as state Senate majority leader.

He is a graduate of Michigan State University and the Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

mburke@detroitnews.com

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