By LANDON THOMAS Jr. – JUNE 2, 2017
As news that President Trump was pulling out of the Paris climate accord hit at a luncheon for small-business owners in Toledo, Ohio, on Thursday, an already happy crowd suddenly turned euphoric.
“It was like a major win at a football game,” said Rick Longenecker, a management consultant who had been among the 50 or so attendees who gathered to trade thoughts amid a rapidly improving local economy.
While multinational corporations such as Disney, Goldman Sachs and IBM have opposed the president’s decision to walk away from the international climate agreement, many small companies around the country were cheering him on, embracing the choice as a tough-minded business move that made good on Mr. Trump’s commitment to put America’s commercial interests first.
This full-throated support from the small-business community comes even as the Trump administration struggles to advance health care legislation and tax reform plans through Congress — and despite the swelling controversy over Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia.
In Michigan, Ohio, Missouri and beyond, many small businesses are reporting improved sales and bigger work forces — regardless of what is going on in Washington.
“We’ve had customers who actually brought business back from Mexico that we haven’t done in seven years,” said Bill Polacek, president of JWF Industries, a manufacturer in Johnstown, Pa.
While local business leaders acknowledge that little has been done by the administration so far in terms of turning promises into law, especially with regard to health care and taxes, most are not yet ready to blame the president.
“There is a new sheriff in town,” said Louis M. Soltis, the owner of a company in Toledo that manufactures control panels for large factories. “But the biggest frustration that I have is that there is so much resistance that is keeping him from moving forward.”
In the months following Mr. Trump’s election victory, as stock markets hit historical highs and companies kept adding jobs, the business community as a whole seemed willing to give the president a chance to follow through on his bold promises to revitalize the economy by cutting taxes and rolling back regulations.
But the move to pull the United States out of an agreement it had previously signed with 195 countries has opened up a fissure between smaller companies and some of the biggest names in business. In the hours after the president’s announcement, dozens of companies including General Electric, Facebook and Microsoft voiced their opposition to the decision, and two prominent chief executives resigned from the president’s business advisory council.