Milwaukee Biz Blog: Making lemonade from Trump’s lemons

Use the chaos as an opening to move to higher ground

Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a campaign rally at the ​Ziegler Building at the Washington County Fair Park & Conference Center in West Bend, Wisconsin August 16, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

Out of the chaotic stew that makes up Donald Trump’s grey matter, there is hope for change from the status quo to better policies for the country.

For example, it is a good thing that our next president is concerned about job retention in America, expressed in using his bully Twitter pulpit to beat up on Ford, Carrier and Rexnord over moving jobs to Mexico. He’s got one piece of the puzzle in his muzzle.

Trump
Donald Trump

Now, can his people do the rest? Those companies move to Mexico to stay competitive in a tough global marketplace, primarily to be cost competitive with China. If they can’t compete with Chinese manufacturers on cost, they will lose business and stateside plants will close anyway. Message to Trump. He has to bite off the tougher issue of the Chinese trade imbalance. Mexico is a lesser issue.

So far, his pro-business bluster has hardened the U.S. dollar against the Chinese Yuan and other currencies, making U. S. manufacturers less, not more, competitive. China could easily stop supporting the Yuan and let it fall further.

In short, it makes only a small dent in the job picture to put three companies in the stocks without dealing with the larger systemic trade issues. Call it a Trumpian blurt, not real trade policy.

As noted before, he could lead by example. He could tweet Ivanka and Melania to bring home the products that they source overseas for their businesses.

For another example of making lemons out of lemonade, his choice of Scott Pruitt, an EPA critic, to head the agency has environmentalists up in arms. But the new secretary could use his good offices to move away from a top-down, prosecutorial approach to regulation to a collaborative model.

What rational, pragmatic regulator would impose new laws and rules on an industry without giving industry executives a seat at the table?

That’s what liberal Sweden has been doing for 50 years, and it works better than a government knows best model.

It goes without saying that our government should set standards for air, water and extraction. But the people working there know a lot more about how to limit pollution than the geniuses inside the beltway.

In short, the Trumpians could move to a green and gold model that enables the environment and economy to move forward together. Those goals do not have to be at odds. Trump’s negotiation skills could come into play.

My company spent $1.5 million to develop a bio-filter that removes more than 90 percent of the petro-chemicals that emit from the printing process, and it took six years – yes, six years – for the EPA certify that filter. That’s nuts! It’s the opposite of collaboration, even though Wisconsin government collaborated by funding half of the cost of the new technology.

For another example, Trump’s seat of the pants phone conversation with the president of Taiwan caused a ruckus in Beijing. Some see it as foreign policy chaos.

But our new leader could use the uproar to make a follow-up call to the president of Mainland China to begin a serious dialogue about a whole range of issues that put the U. S. and China at odds. President Nixon went to China. President Trump could, too. (He could stay at Trump Tower in Beijing.)

For yet another example, if Mr. Trump really cares about more good-pay jobs (not the kind paid in his hospitality industry), he would move in a major way to stimulate high-growth startup companies. That’s where the new high-pay jobs are. That’s how we can reinvent the economy to get away from over-dependence on manufacturing and agri-business for job creation.

Those two sectors have become uber-efficient, so they cannot be relied upon as job generators for the future.

Mr. Trump is an entrepreneur of sorts himself, so he should understand the power and virtue of entrepreneurship.

For openers, he could follow Wisconsin’s lead: our state gives investors in high-growth technology ventures a 25 percent tax credit. How about the same credit on the federal level? It’s working here.

A combined federal-state 50 percent investor credit would open a floodgate of early stage investment across the land. New high-pay jobs would explode across the economy.

Call all of the above political ju-jitsu. Use the Trumpian chaos as an opening to move to higher ground. The president-elect won’t ever do the serious policy work, but maybe his people will. They have doors ajar to do so.

John Torinus is the chairman of Serigraph Inc. in West Bend. He is involved with several business and civic organizations and is the author of “The Company That Solved Health Care.”

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John Torinus is the chairman of Serigraph Inc. in West Bend. He is involved with several business and civic organizations and is the author of “The Company That Solved Health Care.”

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