With a change in administration in Washington, the business community should take notice of those who will be nominated to key cabinet positions, especially labor and commerce. Earlier this week, we highlighted the Department of Labor Secretary nominee, Andrew Puzder. This week, we will take a look at the Commerce Secretary nominee, Wilbur Ross.
The mission statement of the United States Department of Commerce is work “with businesses, universities, communities, and the Nation’s workers to promote job creation, economic growth, sustainable development, and improved standards of living for Americans.”
Here are some facts about Ross:
- The 79-year-old is an investor and former banker who is best known for restructuring failing companies.
- He is considered a specialist in leveraged buyouts.
- He is a graduate of Yale and Harvard (MBA) and his estimated net worth is about $2.5 billion.
Given that he will be part of what many are calling the “gilded cabinet,” he has drawn some criticism from those on the left. However, others are saying he is not a right wing ideologue and is generally respected by organized labor.
In a post written for National Public Radio, Chris Arnold paints a picture of someone who may not be entirely predictable.
Leo Gerard, international president of the United Steelworkers union, says Ross did not deserve his reputation as a vulture capitalist, comparing him to a “rescue helicopter” when he bought several bankrupt steel mills in 2002. Rather than taking the capital out of these bankrupt companies, Ross saved them and even restored some retirees’ healthcare benefits. He was also credited with soliciting the blue-collar workforce for ideas on how to be more efficient.
His record in textiles is somewhat mixed—he did export many U.S. factory jobs to China, but he is also credited with keeping jobs here. Scott Paul, a democrat and president of the non-partisan Alliance for American Manufacturing, was quoted as saying “Wilbur Ross, he reminds me of a trauma surgeon, in a way, who’s dealing with a patient who’s in crisis…There may be some unpleasantness associated with it. You might lose a limb, but he is going to save your life.”
While it’s likely Ross was a leading candidate for this post because of his endorsement and financial support for the Trump campaign, he is also a former Democrat who was involved with the Clinton administration before backing Mitt Romney.
Will Ross be able to stay true to the mission of the Commerce Department and “promote economic growth”? This means remains to be seen, of course. But from here, it does appear that Ross is not an ideologue, which is probably a good thing and should make his tenure an interesting one to watch.