Category Archives: business news

Business advisory councils’ demise no huge deal, except …

The dismantling of two advisory councils by the president of the United States won’t matter in the grand scheme of the Donald John Trump administration’s method of operation.

The president doesn’t listen to advice. He doesn’t value the expertise of his advisers. He keeps his own counsel. He then acts on some gut impulse.

So, with the departure of the American Manufacturing Advisory Council and the Strategy and Policy Forum we haven’t lost anything of great value — to this administration.

The context, though, is important.

CEOs from both panels — which serve on a volunteer basis — were bailing en masse as a result of Trump’s hideous and jaw-dropping rant on Tuesday about the Charlottesville riot, the one where he blamed “both sides” for the violence and the tragic death of Heather Heyer and those two Virginia state troopers.

Moreover, they had informed the president of their intention to quit, effectively ending their existence. Trump, though, decided to get ahead of them with a tweet that said he was taking the initiative and ending the councils himself.

Put another way: Donald Trump lied. Again. Plainly.

It’s the context of these councils’ demise that gives this story its legs.

If only the president would have valued whatever advice they could provide him, then the country would be the lesser for their departure.

Many of us are left to wonder: Are White House staffers and, oh, possibly Cabinet members next to head for the exits?

CEOs quit; Trump then dismisses the whole bunch

Donald J. Trump did what many folks have come to expect of him: He decided to lash out bigly against those who have grown critical of his administration.

The chief executives of several major companies quit his President’s Manufacturing Advisory Council. They resigned because of the president’s remarks regarding the Charlottesville mayhem. Similar resignations were expected from the Strategic and Policy Forum; again, for the same reasons. You know about the fallout that has blanketed the president and the White House as a result of Trump’s astonishing impromptu press event Tuesday at Trump Tower.

What does Trump do? He disbands both councils, announcing his decision via — where else? — Twitter. He tweeted this message:

Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!

Sigh.

Here is how The Hill reported it.

Is that how a grownup handles such unrest within handpicked blue-ribbon councils and boards? Of course not. It is, though, the way a junior high school student would handle a dispute with a classmate. But that’s the president’s modus operandi. No attempt to reach out, to seek some understanding, to explain in detail why he said what he said about Charlottesville.

The CEOs quit. Then Trump decides to get rid of the whole initiative. Will there be anything to replace these advisory boards? Given the president’s penchant for ignoring anyone’s advice, I guess it’s safe to presume there won’t be a need to replace them.

The sequence of events, though, does remind me of how a boss prepares to fire an employee, who then — in a fit of faux rage — yells back at the employer: You can’t fire me. I quit!

Great jobs report, but what has POTUS done … exactly?

The U.S. Labor Department chimed in this morning with a stellar jobs report for July.

The nation added 209,000 payroll jobs. The unemployment rate fell from 4.4 percent to 4.3 percent. It’s good news. The economy is on the move, as it has been for some time now.

Donald J. Trump, as expected, took credit for the great jobs report. Yes, the president should be thrilled and happy with them. I welcome the good news as much as he does.

He said he’s “only just begun” to bring back more American jobs.

My question, though, is this: What, precisely, has the president done to generate the stellar jobs numbers?

Legislative accomplishment? None. We haven’t overhauled the tax system. Congress hasn’t acted on the president’s infrastructure revitalization plan. It hasn’t tossed out and replaced the Affordable Care Act.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has rolled back many of regulations enacted in prior administrations, but have those actions produced — by themselves — these big job numbers? Umm. No.

Take credit, Mr. President, if you wish. You are entitled to all the credit you deserve — which is some, but nearly as much as you seem to suggest.

‘Economy is doing so well’

Donald John Trump is rightfully happy with the state of the national economy.

The stock market is setting records. Joblessness is low. More jobs are being added to non-farm payrolls. Consumer and business confidence is high.

That’s all great, Mr. President.

The president talked about all of that today as White House chief of staff John Kelly reported for work on his first day in the West Wing.

Here’s the deal, though. The trend the president cited is a continuation of the “mess” he supposedly inherited when he took over this past January from Barack H. Obama.

Didn’t the one-time Republican candidate for president trash the daylights out of President Obama’s stewardship of the nation’s economy? Didn’t he cite sluggish GDP growth as part of that so-called “mess”?

I’ll give the president credit, though, for a recent Commerce Department report that ticked up GDP growth a bit past its original estimate. For that, the president can take some measure of credit.

I just find it curiously ironic that one president’s economic “mess” becomes another president’s economic “miracle.”

Tax returns might reveal the whole truth

Here they come again.

Those still-missing Donald J. Trump tax returns have returned to front row of discussion topics relating to the Russian probe into the president’s 2016 campaign.

Trump hasn’t released them. He has broken a 40-year streak of disclosures from presidential candidates. He keeps saying he’s “under audit” by the Internal Revenue Service.

But wait! Special counsel Robert Mueller is now thought to be examining the Trump business empire’s dealings that might have something to do with the Russian government, which has been linked to allegations that it sought to influence the 2016 presidential election outcome.

Won’t those tax returns tell the public whether Trump’s businesses had any skin in the game? Won’t they reveal the truth? Couldn’t they possibly clear the air? Might they tell us that Trump has been truthful, that he has no business dealings with Russia?

Or, might they tell us something else?

I know I’m repeating myself. That’s too bad. Those tax returns need to go before the public.

A glimpse into my city’s future?

ST. PAUL, Minn. — It might be that I have caught a glimpse of Amarillo, Texas’s future.

It presented itself more than 1,000 miles north of the Texas Panhandle in Minnesota’s capital city.

Amarillo is in the midst of a downtown renovation/revival/redevelopment. It includes a first-class hotel that’s about to open next to a first-class performance center, across the street from the Civic Center.

St. Paul happens to have — and perhaps this is just a coincidence — a world-class entertainment venue across the street from a historic hotel. I didn’t see the municipal complex, but it cannot be too far from the hotel and the performing arts center, given that this city’s downtown is fairly compact.

We came here to visit my cousin and her husband, who took us to see a world-class performance of “Jesus Christ, Superstar” at the Ordway Entertainment Center. Before we went to the play, we enjoyed a light dinner at the St. Paul Hotel, which was built in 1910.

The hotel was packed. So was the Ordway center.

Oh, did I mention that down the street in St. Paul there’s a ballpark where they play minor-league baseball? There. I just did.

Which brings me to another point: Amarillo is about to break ground on construction of a multipurpose event venue/ballpark which — another coincidence! — will be the home field for a AA minor-league baseball team that will relocate to Amarillo from San Antonio.

They played a ballgame at the St. Paul ballpark. After it ended, they shot off fireworks that entertained a huge crowd of folks gathered in an outdoor park.

I now shall put some of this into a bit of perspective.

St. Paul’s population is about 304,000; Amarillo’s is at 200,000. St. Paul is next to Minneapolis; its metro-area population is about 3.5 million residents, while Amarillo’s metro population is about 280,000. St. Paul is separated from Minneapolis by the Big Muddy, aka the Mississippi River; Amarillo doesn’t have that kind of waterway coursing through it.

So, I realize I’m not making an apples-to-apples comparison.

I do, though, intend to suggest that economies of scale can produce success for Amarillo’s effort to remake its downtown district. Our city’s economic development gurus keep looking toward places such as Fort Worth and Oklahoma City as benchmarks for Amarillo’s potential future. They, too, have done well to revive their downtown districts.

I continue to harbor enormous optimism that Amarillo’s effort is going to produce success. Will it reap the pound-for-pound harvest that other communities have hauled in? Not necessarily. If Amarillo is smart, aggressive and creative in its marketing of what lies ahead, then it surely can enjoy the fruits of it all.

We came up way up north and saw what looks to me like a potential glimpse of what lies ahead for Amarillo, Texas.

Not just a ‘mall’

MINNEAPOLIS — Many of you have seen something like this already. If so, then just bear with me for a moment as I share this brief note about something I’d heard about but had never seen up close and personal.

The Mall of America sits right across the highway from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. We came here during the middle of a work week. The place was packed. I am led to believe, therefore, that this shopping extravaganza is some sort of destination for travelers.

It’s likely the largest shopping mall on Planet Earth. And, oh man, it is an impressive display of conspicuous consumption.

We walked into the heart of the Mall of America and noticed a Ferris wheel, a zip line, a roller coaster and assorted other smaller rides for the hundreds of children running around the place like little banshees.

My wife and I came here to visit my cousin and her husband. The Mall of America was on their list of sights to see. I normally am not a “mall guy,” but this place is utterly breathtaking. It’s not that it’s a marvelous place to, um, shop. It’s the size of the place that is so damn stunning.

A friend of mine who used to write for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune once called the Mall of America “the place that covers all of southern Minnesota.” I am beginning to believe that description is closer to the truth than I ever expected.

We had lunch at a noisy restaurant. Walked around the place a bit and then left.

Shopping malls are meant, I always thought, to provide a place for folks to buy all different types of merchandise under one roof.

But … zip lines and roller coasters? Holy cow!

This guy speaks the truth … at Fox!

It’s become a cliché of sorts that “only Nixon could go to China.”

The communist-hating U.S. president was the man in 1972 to open the door to the People’s Republic of China and that remains one of President Nixon’s everlasting legacies.

So, then, it might be said that “only Shepard Smith at Fox can speak the truth” about Donald J. Trump’s “mind-boggling deception.”

I single out Smith because of the network he works for. Fox News Channel is known far and wide — and beyond — as being quite friendly to the president of the United States. Trump is a frequent guest on “Fox and Friends,” and Fox commentator Sean Hannity is quite fond of extolling the president’s virtues while overlooking some of the other, um, non-virtuous qualities of the man and the team with which he has surrounded himself.

Smith isn’t part of that cadre of Trump acolytes.

He took aim at the controversy swirling around Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with that Russian lawyer and the ever-changing reasons/excuses/dodges he keeps offering for why he accepted a meeting he thought would produce some dirt on Hillary Rodham Clinton during the 2016 campaign.

“If there’s nothing there, and that’s what they tell us, why all these lies?” Smith told fellow Fox anchor Chris Wallace. “The deception is mind-boggling and there are still people out there who think we’re making it up. And one day they are going to realize we are not.”

You all know that I don’t watch Fox News regularly. My own bias forces me to wrestle with the notion that the network that once called itself “fair and balanced” has been neither “fair” or “balanced” in its coverage of U.S. politics.

Read The Hill’s report here.

Every now and then, one of the on-air folks at Fox shows us that journalistic integrity presents itself in a media organization well-known for the policies that come from the top of its chain of command.

Shepard Smith, I suppose, has become an “enemy of the American people” because he dares offer us a view that doesn’t comport with the president’s way events should be reported.

Welcome to the club, Shep.

Trudeau offers advice: Knock off the protectionism, U.S.

Protectionist trade policies make good politics at certain times, but they tend to stand directly in the way of allied nations and friendly neighbors.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made a rare appearance before the U.S. National Governors Association meeting and offered a stern bit of advice: Fix what you think is wrong with the North American Free Trade Agreement instead of throwing it over.

Donald J. Trump has vowed to toss NAFTA into the crapper. He threatened to do it immediately after becoming president, then backed off.

Trudeau doesn’t think tossing out NAFTA is a good idea. I agree with him.

The United States about 4,000 miles of common border with Canada, our leading trading partner.

Trudeau said this, in part, to the governors, according to BBC News: President Donald Trump has made “America First” his mantra, shaping his policies on trade and immigration.

But Mr. Trudeau, who is a fierce advocate of free trade, told the governors protectionist policies “kill growth.”

“And that hurts the very workers these measures are nominally intended to protect. Once we travel down that road, it can quickly become a cycle of tit-for-tat, a race to the bottom, where all sides lose,” Mr. Trudeau said.

Is that so hard to understand? The U.S. president donned the so-called populist cape and campaigned on pledges to get rid of NAFTA, to scrap the Trans-Pacific Partnership and to remove the United States from the Paris climate accord. He made good on the pledges regarding the latter two agreements.

NAFTA does have its critics. As with the Affordable Care Act — which Republicans want to scrap altogether — NAFTA can be repaired with improvements. Why not embrace the notion of free and fair trade with Canada and Mexico?

Prime Minister Trudeau has offered some sound counsel to U.S. governors. He wants to create what he called a “thinner border” between the two giant neighboring nations. Donald Trump is seeking to wall off the nation he governs from the rest of North America.

How is that going to benefit this great nation?

WT making the turn in downtown Amarillo

I surely understand that much of the attention focusing on downtown Amarillo’s revival centers on that new ballpark/multipurpose event venue.

It’s a big deal, to be clear. They’re going to start busting up concrete in a few months and by April 2018, the MPEV will be open for business as the city welcomes the AA minor-league baseball franchise set to play hardball at the venue.

Oh, but wait! Something else really big is coming along in the city’s downtown district. It’s at the corner of Eight Avenue and Tyler Street. West Texas A&M University is finishing up Phase One of its new Amarillo Center.

WT purchased the old Commerce Building a couple years ago. Then Texas A&M University System regents allocated money to gut the old structure and turn it into a downtown campus.

I’ll be honest: When I first heard about WT moving its Amarillo classrooms from the Chase Tower to the Commerce Building, I envisioned a fairly quick and simple turnaround. WT would tear the guts out of the building, add some new rooms, reconfigure the floor plan a bit, hook up the electronics and then open the doors for college students.

Oh, no. It’s a lot more complicated than that.

WT has essentially rebuilt the structure. Yes, it’s the same framework. The exterior, shall we say, bears zero resemblance to the Commerce Building. Phase Two construction is going to commence soon.

Read about it here.

It’s a beautiful addition to the downtown district’s physical appearance.

Is it a totally positive development that lacks any downside? Not exactly.

You see, WT is going to vacate several floors at the 31-story Chase Tower, which already has seen a large portion of its building go dark with Excel Energy’s relocation into a new office structure on Buchanan Street. Roughly half of the Chase Tower will be vacant when WT starts classes at its Amarillo Center.

That ain’t good, man.

I did receive assurances, though, from Aaron Emerson, a partner in Gaut Whittenberg Emerson commercial real estate agents that they are shopping the Chase Tower aggressively for new tenants; moreover, Emerson told me he has great confidence that the building will be reoccupied.

I’ll hope for the best on that matter.

As for the new WT downtown Amarillo campus, I welcome the university’s increased profile in the city’s central business district.