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Trump taps Mich. business leaders for jobs initiative

Melissa Nann Burke, and Michael Wayland


The White House is including several Michigan business leaders, from Ford Motor Co., Whirlpool Corp. and Dow Chemical Co., in an initiative to boost manufacturing jobs.

President Donald Trump plans to hold a series of meetings organized by Dow Chairman and CEO Andrew Liveris with business leaders "to share their experiences and gain their insights," according to the White House.

"President Trump plans to continually seek information and perspectives from a diverse range of business leaders ... on how best to promote job growth and get Americans back to work again," the administration said in a statement Friday.

In addition to Liveris, the initial meetings are expected to include Whirlpool Chairman and CEO Jeff Fettig; Ford CEO and President Mark Fields; Tesla Motors Inc. CEO Elon Musk; and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and AFL-CIO Deputy Chief of Staff Thea Lee, among others.

Officials with some companies did not immediately respond for comment on their executives being part of the group, which will be a working panel of business leaders for the White House but will not issue policy recommendations.

“The Manufacturing Jobs Initiative will offer perspectives and information to President Trump and his Administration on a variety of policy priorities that will spur job growth and productivity in the U.S. manufacturing sector,” a Dow spokeswoman said in a statement Friday. “This diverse group of leading manufacturing CEOs and Labor leaders will help identify and work with experts from across the country to make U.S. manufacturing more competitive. The work of the Initiative members will be a major step in helping the U.S. reclaim its role as the world's manufacturing leader.”

The AFL-CIO’s Trumka, in a statement to The Detroit News, said he looks “forward to working on this bipartisan issue to ensure that our country continues to be a leader on manufacturing innovation, as well as the creation of good jobs.”

“For too long, American manufacturing workers have seen their industries and communities decimated by misguided trade policies and inadequate investments in skills and infrastructure,” he said. “I know that American workers are the best, the brightest and the hardest working.”

Ford spokeswoman Christin Baker said in a statement that Fields “welcomes the opportunity to offer perspective on how the Trump Administration’s policies can support U.S. manufacturing and American jobs.”

The manufacturing initiative comes a day after the White House said Trump would consider paying for a border wall with Mexico — estimated to cost up to $15 billion — by imposing a 20 percent tax on imports from Mexico.

If Trump proposed such a plan and if it was approved by Congress, it would deal a blow to Detroit’s three automakers, which have factories in Mexico that export vehicles not only to foreign countries but also to the United States. It is among a buffet of options under consideration, administration officials stressed later Thursday.

Trump sat down this week with several business leaders, including the CEOS from Detroit’s automaker on Tuesday. Fields as well as Liveris and others also met with Trump Monday to discuss business, followed by a meeting between Trump and several organized labor leaders.

Musk also was named last month to a Strategic and Policy Forum that frequently will advise Trump on economic issues and jobs growth. Others included in the group were General Motors’ CEO Mary Barra, Uber Technologies CEO Travis Kalanick and PepsiCo. CEO Indra Nooyi, among others.

Both Fields and Barra have previously said they look forward to working with Trump and the new administration.

The full list of initial business leaders assisting with the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative include:

  • Andrew Liveris, The Dow Chemical Co.
  • Bill Brown, Harris Corp.
  • Michael Dell, Dell Technologies
  • John Ferriola, Nucor Corp.
  • Jeff Fettig, Whirlpool Corp.
  • Mark Fields, Ford Motor Co.
  • Ken Frazier, Merck & Co. Inc.
  • Alex Gorsky, Johnson & Johnson
  • Greg Hayes, United Technologies Corp.
  • Marillyn Hewson, Lockheed Martin Corp.
  • Jeff Immelt, General Electric
  • Jim Kamsickas, Dana Inc.
  • Klaus Kleinfeld, Arconic
  • Brian Krzanich, Intel Corp.
  • Rich Kyle, The Timken Co.
  • Thea Lee, AFL-CIO
  • Mario Longhi, U.S. Steel
  • Denise Morrison, Campbell Soup Co.
  • Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing
  • Elon Musk, Tesla
  • Doug Oberhelman, Caterpillar
  • Scott Paul, Alliance for American Manufacturing
  • Kevin Plank, Under Armour
  • Michael Polk, Newell Brands
  • Mark Sutton, International Paper
  • Inge Thulin, 3M
  • Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO

Wendell Weeks, Corning

Detroit News staff writer Ian Thibodeau contributed