A Word with the Commander-in-Chief...
Patricia Miller, CEO and owner of Matrix 4, a Woodstock, Illinois-based mold manufacturing and injection molding company, had the opportunity to sit down with the president of the United States and share with him her support, her concerns, her passion for manufacturing.
Perusing LinkedIn the other day, it was hard to miss seeing a video posted by the Technology and Manufacturing Association (TMA Illinois) about Patricia Miller, CEO and owner of Matrix 4, a Woodstock, Illinois-based mold manufacturing and injection molding company, who had the opportunity on March 31st to sit down with the president of the United States, Donald Trump, and share with him her support, her concerns, her passion for manufacturing.
Upon watching the video, which shows only a portion of the meeting with the president in the Roosevelt Room of the White House (with Patricia seated next to him!), I contacted Patricia to get the inside scoop. She is a fellow member of the American Mold Builders Association (AMBA) Chicago Chapter, actively involved also at the TMA, and a board member of the National Association of Manufacturers, which organized the meeting. NAM members that participated were led by the organization’s president and CEO, Jay Timmons.
In the video, which you can watch on YouTube here, President Trump greets Timmons and representatives of 12 NAM member companies and opens the meeting with a statement that includes the following (from a White House transcript): “One of the reasons we're here today is to announce the extraordinary results of a new survey from the National Association of Manufacturers. Your survey shows that 93 percent of manufacturers now have a positive outlook on the future of their business in this country -- 93 [percent]. And it was just a few months ago, 56 [percent]. That's a slight difference.”
President Trump also said, “That's a 20-year, record high—highest it’s been in 20 years, and it’s going higher… And so I’m very proud of that, and we're all very proud of that. And the manufacturers are really starting to invest big money, and a lot of things are happening. It’s a new surge in optimism, which is sweeping all across our land. These survey results are a further vote of confidence in our plan to bring back jobs, lower taxes, and provide a level playing field for our workers. The manufacturing companies represent—and represented here today—are just an extraordinary group of people. They're leaders.”
Rather than try to recreate the experience by paraphrasing, I’ll let Patricia share her experience in her own words, via her responses to my many questions.
- How did this visit come about?
Miller: NAM conducts a survey across its membership every quarter and the most recent survey showed a significant change in optimism from its membership—higher than in the last 20 years! The Trump administration was interested in highlighting this and NAM works closely in Washington DC to ensure manufacturing is represented and has a voice at the highest level. MATRIX 4 is a member of NAM and I serve on the Board of Directors of the organization.
- How did it feel when you walked into the Roosevelt Room and knew it was all really happening?
Miller: It was surreal to be in the Roosevelt Room and the Oval Office, a space I see so often in images from meetings that have been meaningful or important and that hold historic significance. I did not expect the number of press members that rushed into the room with so many sticks (microphones), cameras and notepads. Most importantly, I am honored I was asked to have a seat at the table to have the conversation about an industry that is so important to me, that I am passionate about, as we write this next chapter of American manufacturing.
- Did you have an opportunity to chat with the president before or after the official listening session (as they’re calling it)?
Miller: A brief introduction was made at the beginning, then a round table discussion was held after the press departed, and we had a brief discussion afterwards in the Oval Office and said goodbye.
- What is President Trump like in person?
Miller: He is very much the same as you see otherwise. He is confident, provides commentary, and he does go off script. And I can tell you, from sitting next to him, his hair is real!
- He made a statement about his commitment to U.S. manufacturing and trade during your session. Was there any message that you and your fellow NAM members wanted to impart to him, besides the fact that you support his efforts on behalf of American manufacturing? How did he respond?
Miller: Yes, we definitely wanted to share that we support his efforts on behalf of American manufacturing. It was important for us to discuss the optimism around the industry sector but also convey to him the issues we are still facing and challenged by, including taxes, regulations, healthcare costs, and workforce development. He is receptive to hearing this and continues to reinforce that he is on it. Large manufacturers have had these conversations with the administration but what was exciting about this meeting was that the people around the table comprised small- to mid-sized manufacturing businesses. Recognizing that NAM is made up of 80 percent small- to mid-size member companies, it was a welcome opportunity to share our perspectives and have a voice in the conversation.
- What else can you tell me about this experience? Did you meet with other legislators while on the Hill? If yes, who?
Miller: I did not meet with other legislators, but did have the opportunity with a few other NAM leaders to have lunch with some of President Trump’s staff members, which were very gracious hosts. We had a productive conversation about manufacturing with them also.
- After visiting with the president, you were interviewed on a CNBC television news program. Tell me about that experience.
I did not have a brief, so I was not aware of the questions they would ask me, and it was my first time being interviewed on a mainstream news program, live, from the White House to boot! It was freezing outside, but the camera man kindly put a heater near my feet and there are a lot of lights on me. It was a great experience, though, and what was most important to me was being able to elevate the conversation outside of the White House and bring it back in to the manufacturing community, our states and associations, and talk about what matters to all of us and how are we going to continue raising the bar, challenging the status quo, and driving business in our communities and industry segments.