WNPR

Will New England Manufacturers Buy President Trump?

Nov 9, 2016

Donald Trump has always said on the campaign trail that his business experience prepared him for the presidency. But it’s not entirely clear what his economic policies will entail. So what do small businesses think of President Trump?

At the Connecticut Convention Center, the region’s aerospace parts makers are gathered this week, networking with each other, and also trying to entice young people into careers in manufacturing. This is the Future Workforce Opportunities Fair and Tradeshow hosted by Aerospace Components Manufacturers.

But a lot of the talk Wednesday was about politics.

"I have always been a person for change," said Michael Polo. He's president of ACMT in Manchester, which makes parts for Pratt & Whitney and Sikorsky. "Many people I’ve heard already this morning are afraid. I’m not afraid. I like having a business mind in the White House. I’ve said all along, if you’ve had to make a payroll and had to hire people, I think it gives you a different perspective."

A lot of ACMT’s business depends on international trade, something Trump has been skeptical of, but Polo said he looks forward to the new president’s tough approach.

"I travel the world, and there are regions in manufacturing, especially, that it’s unfair," he told WNPR. "With that business mind and negotiating, I think that’s a welcome breath of fresh air. A politician thinks one way. A business person looking at jobs thinks a totally different way."

But others take a much less optimistic view of the new administration.

"I was completely shocked," said Kristin Carlson, president of Peerless Precision in Westfield, Massachusetts. "I think I might be speaking for the majority of at least New Englanders, and a lot of America, when I say I was expecting to wake up to our first woman president. And not just our first woman president, but the future of our country was at stake in this one. I’m a little nervous. I’m not even going to lie about that."

Carlson said the GOP sweep in the House, Senate, and presidency might actually benefit her financially.

“When Republicans are in office, defense spending goes up – great for my company,” she said.

But Carlson doesn’t see much evidence that Trump has a real understanding of the issues on business, and particularly trade.

"I think a lot of this has been smoke and mirrors," she said. "And I’m hoping I’m wrong. I’m hoping when he does get inaugurated and everything, maybe he’s playing a big joke on us, and hey, I really know what I’m talking about. I’m hoping that’s the case – I’m not entirely 100 percent that is."

Whatever economic policies are put in place in January, New England’s manufacturers know they’ll have to continue to engage with the world to stay in business.