James F. Dicke II, chairman and CEO of Crown Equipment and chairman emeritus of the Dayton Art Institute. Submitted photo.

Crown Equipment CEO impressed with Trump cabinet picks

James Dicke of Crown Equipment served as an Ohio elector and voted for Trump in the Electoral College vote last week.

Like many companies in this region with worldwide locations, Auglaize County-based Crown Equipment Corp. has a lot at stake in what decisions are made by Donald Trump’s administration when it takes office next month.

James Dicke II, chairman and CEO of Crown Equipment, recently spoke to the Dayton Daily News about his thoughts on the Trump administration and what it could mean for his company and others in the Miami Valley.

Crown, based an hour north of Dayton in New Bremen, has 18 manufacturing facilities worldwide, and 500-plus retail locations, in 84 countries.

Dicke voted last week in the Electoral College for the first time and has been a longtime Republican activist and donor who serves on the Republican National Committee.

President George W. Bush in 2005 appointed Dicke to the President’s Export Council, which advises on international trade issues. Dicke also has been a delegate to each of the last five GOP conventions and has served on the Smithsonian and Kennedy Center boards.

What do you think of Trump’s pick for Secretary of State? “Regardless of party, I think somebody like Rex Tillerson, for example, brings a knowledge about how the United States is disadvantaged in some of these international business and trade situations, that’s more sophisticated than just about any of the secretaries of state in the previous administrations in recent times both Republican and Democrat.”

“I’m sure Mr. Tillerson will have his challenges. People will want him to assure he doesn’t care about ExxonMobile anymore. But clearly, he’s got an understanding of some of the trade problems in a way none of the other recent ones have had; certainly not John Kerry, not Secretary Clinton, not even Condoleeza Rice or Colin Powell.”

“That’s one example of a pick that ought to make it possible for the United States to return to that 4 percent growth that Mr. Trump’s been talking about.”

“I do not know Rex Tillerson personally, but he has a reputation in the business world as being one very, very smart guy and scrupulously honest.”

What can the Trump administration do about the economy? “When the economy is not doing well the tax rates don’t make any difference because there is not going to be enough revenue coming into the government because the economy is not doing well. When the economy is doing really, really well the tax rates don’t make any difference because there is plenty of money coming into the treasury from taxes because there is so much great economic activity.”

“What the government is wise to focus on is what level of taxes will stimulate the economy while at the same time bringing in revenue that we need to run the government. If you don’t have an economy that’s cooking along you’re not going to be able to be successful in that calculation.”

Does Crown have challenges internationally?

“The international business world – especially if you are in manufacturing like us — has become extraordinarily complicated. There are some activities that literally are not possible in the United States anymore because of regulations. We all need good regulations for safety and for the environment and for the rest. But some of these regulations make it impossible for the United States to do things like make steel, or have a vigorous castings industry.

“As much as anything, businesses get sent overseas because they can’t survive the regulations in the United States. It’s not that they are in search of a cheaper labor rate; it’s not that they’re in search of a cheaper cost of production. It’s trying to find the business environment where they can keep manufacturing the product.”

“Just to focus on automobiles for a minute, there’s no such thing as a Japanese automobile or an American automobile or a Chinese automobile or a German automobile. These days when you look at all the thousands of parts that are in a car, most cars are sold worldwide but all cars have their parts sourced worldwide. So the simple mantra that ‘we should buy American’ is actually not quite so simple as it might appear.”

What are some of the regulatory impediments? “Many times it’s a question of where things can be shipped without barriers into those other countries. If you’re the kind of people for example in the gear manufacturing business and you’re manufacturing gears in Mexico you can probably ship your gears all over the world and not have import problems.”

“The United States has actually not been very good about creating bi-lateral trade agreements. We’ve been good at trying to create multi-national trade agreements but we don’t work with individual countries as we should.”

“So if you’ve got that same gear manufacturing company in the United States you may find that some countries aren’t a problem and some countries are. You’ll have impediments shipping your gears around the world in a way that you don’t have if you were in another country.”

How do you think Trump will impact business with his decisions? “What I like about Donald Trump is he has a bias for action instead of a bias for inaction. He has a bias for making continuous improvements. There’s a difference between people who want to be president just because they want to be president and people who want to be president because they see that there’s a crying need for someone like them to serve.

I’m sure President Trump will have his shortcomings like any human being would but I think it’s kind of an exciting time for us to try something that is going to serve the country in an out-of-the-box way that we haven’t seen in my lifetime.”

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