Q & A with Tom Harrison about his trip to the White House
Our Board of Directors Chair and Michigan Ladder CEO Tom Harrison was honored to be invited to the Michigan Business Leader’s Briefing at the White House in June, along with representatives from the public sector, including local colleges and universities, and other Michigan business owners and CEOs. Here’s his take on the meeting.
Which officials attended?
Members of the White House Economic Council (WHEC). Most of the names are not in the mainstream media and probably not known to most, but Mark Doms, the Chief Economist Department of Commerce and Ari Matusiak, the Executive Director of the White House Business Council are two that I knew.
What were some of the key points in the economic briefing?
The people from the private sector consistently voiced a concern over the uncertainty in the economy. Our perspective was to simply figure out the rules, regulations and taxes, make them fair and equitable, and have them apply to everyone without exception. The spending and unfunded obligations need to be brought under control because we all know that at some point it will have to be paid for. People from the public sector got excited about re-training the work force.
What were some of the policies discussed?
From the private sector: the ever-changing rules, regulations and taxes that make it difficult to plan your business. From the public sector: re-training programs. From the White House: they touted a re-training bill (that none of us had heard of), programs to hire veterans, and electronic health records.
Did you get the sense that the Department of Commerce and the White House understand the issues facing businesses in Michigan?
I think they have a general understanding of the situation in Michigan and have a similar understanding of the problems around the country. Do I think they will really do what is needed? No. All of our economic problems are political and I don’t think there is the political will to do what is required.
Do you think this meeting was effective in helping to communicate the needs of Michigan businesses?
Absolutely. Anytime you have the opportunity to visit with our policy makers, I think you should do it. If they call me 100 times, I will go 100 times. I’m less optimistic that anything meaningful will come out of these meetings, but you do have to try.
What issues do you feel are unique to businesses in Michigan?
I don’t think that we really have any unique issues. If our policy makers could provide a fair, equitable and stable economic environment, everything else will take care of itself.
What did you see on the White House tour?
We visited the East Wing and part of the private residence. Our tour was scheduled for June 1st and on day prior they had unveiled the official portraits of George and Laura Bush. We got to see them on display in the East Room of the White House.
How did your family enjoy the trip?
Everyone had a great time. I particular enjoyed visiting the Gettysburg battlefield and torturing my children with a painfully detailed description of the battle, particularly Pickett’s charge. We all went on the White House tour together and while I was in my meeting, they visited all of the sites in DC. Favorites among the kids were the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and the International Spy Museum.