Dow CEO Liveris and Trump Display Unity

12.12.2016 -

Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris announced on Dec. 9 that the US chemical giant plans to build an innovation center at its Midland, Michigan, USA headquarters, creating 100 new R&D jobs and “repatriating” 100 others from other global locations. The announcement was made at a post-election rally for future US president, Donald Trump.

At the same event, Trump announced he had named Liveris to head the Manufacturing Council, the private sector advisory committee to the Secretary of Commerce on manufacturing in the US. He said details of the manufacturing panel will be released over the next several days, when Liveris announces more members.

US news reports quote the president-elect as saying he chose the Dow chief to find ways to bring industry back to the US because he is "one of the most respected businessmen in the world” and “no one can do it like Andrew.”  Since 2011, Liveris has headed President Barack Obama’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP), bringing together industry, universities and the federal government to invest in the emerging technologies with the goal of creating high quality manufacturing jobs.

In its statement describing the new center, Dow said its mission will be to advance technologies for home and personal care products, energy-saving building technologies and materials for critical infrastructure, while driving closer partnerships with automakers developing lightweight automobiles along with novel transportation solutions.

Investment costs were not disclosed, nor was a start-date given. Dow likewise did not reveal how the new research facility would fit into the consolidation process already underway ahead of the Michigan group’s planned $130 billion merger with Delaware-based US rival DuPont. The center, designed to mesh the chemical producer’s existing knowhow with silicones technologies from the former joint venture Dow Corning, “could have been located anywhere in the world,” Liveris said. He explained that Michigan was chosen because of its highly-skilled workforce and “because we believe the incoming Presidential administration understands the importance of R&D investment and its multiplier impact on US manufacturing jobs.”

At Trump’s Michigan rally – one of a number to be held in states won in the Nov. 8 election – US news media said the New York real estate tycoon and the CEO of the largest US chemical producer heaped praise on each other. “You’re paving the way through your policies to make it easier to do business in this country,” the newspaper Detroit News quoted Liveris as telling Trump.  “Not a red tape country, but a red carpet country for American business.”

The business newspaper Wall Street Journal, reporting from the 6,000-seat arena in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where the rally was held, said Liveris told attendees the reason Dow made the decision to move 100 jobs back to the US “because of this man and these policies.” Addressing Trump, the CEO added: “I tingle with pride listening to you.”

Dow has created more than 6,000 jobs in the US over the past four years, the group noted in its statement announcing the R&D facility. A “significant proportion” of the jobs, he said, is on the Gulf coast, where cheap shale gas-derived ethane feedstock is available. The chemical giant is currently investing $6 billion in new petrochemical facilities that it said would ultimately “support more than 3,500 jobs in the broader US economy.”

Over the past several years, Dow has shed numerous jobs in corporate restructuring, before plans for a link-up with DuPont emerged. In June, it said it would trim 700 positions from the- Midland workforce as part of a cost-cutting drive after the Dow Corning buyout. In a scheme to save $500 million in costs, 2,500 jobs are to be axed. Along with silicones plants in Japan, a facility in the US state of North Carolina will be affected. 

Separately, Liveris, who at a meeting in his native Australia earlier this year compared the US election campaign to a reality show and remarked that “Donald Trump is an incredible marketer of the fantasy of what could be,” told the US business TV channel CNBC he is pleased with the president-elect’s plans to dismantle some of President Barack Obama’s “burdensome and onerous” environmental regulations.

In the crosshairs especially is the Clean Power Plan. “Frankly, it’s increased the cost of doing business in this country,” Liveris said of the plan, remarking that rather than using the legislation to regulate business, a “better regulation” is needed.