We appear to be at the point in battling the pandemic where President Donald Trump gets to turn much of his attention to one of his favorite groups of people: America’s CEOs. And in creating new panels and committees to get the economy moving again, he has cast a wide net to bring in dozens of the nation’s leading CEOs in agriculture, manufacturing, finance, defense and entertainment as well as some labor leaders, governors and other elected officials, and pundits.
No doubt this is a moment that Trump, his economic advisors and millions of Americans have relished as the president finally brings the influence and resources of the federal government to bear on re-starting an economy that daily is now producing indicators of the worst retrenchment globally since the Great Depression.
The Great American Economic Revival Industry Groups include about 200 leaders from across the business spectrum. Prominent are CEOs with whom Trump has had a lot of contact during his four years as president, including Apple’s Tim Cook. They include familiar friendly faces to Trump such as New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. At the same time, Trump managed to recruit business leaders who have been critical of him in the past, including Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and a star of Shark Tank.
“I’m confident that these respected people … will give us some great ideas in addition to what the governors have learned,” Trump said on Wednesday. He said that he’ll be consulting with members of the Industry Groups by phone and that the panels of advisors will operate separately from the White House task force that is leading the administration’s public-health strategy to contain and mitigate the pandemic, though there is likely to be some overlap.
Among the industries singled out for special attention on the panels were tech, banking and autos A handful of Silicon Valley chiefs besides Cook will sit on a panel, including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison. A gaggle of chiefs from Wall Street have joined, as has Noah Wilcox, CEO of Grand Rapids (Mich.) State Bank. And while the banged-up airline industry has only one CEO sitting on a Recovery Panel, Oscar Munoz of United Airlines, there are four heads of U.S. auto companies.
Trump has had complicated and consequential relationships with auto-industry chiefs because of the importance of their companies not just to the domestic economy but specifically to American manufacturing. General Motors CEO Mary Barra, Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford, Fiat Chrysler Automotive CEO Mike Manley and Tesla CEO Elon Musk are among those Trump named.
Interestingly, Trump included Musk, but not the U.S. chiefs of any foreign-owned automakers such as Honda, Toyota, Hyundai, and Volkswagen. Tesla is highly influential in the direction of the U.S. auto industry, with its trailblazing electric vehicles, but still produces and sells only a fraction of the number of vehicles in America that these other companies do.
Over the last several weeks, of course, Trump has cajoled, complimented and buttonholed particular CEOs to try to accomplish specific aims such as getting manufacturers to switch to production of ventilators and masks. In that regard, he ripped Barra at one point for not moving the company to ventilator production fast enough, in his opinion, but then allowed My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell to share a White House podium with him after he reconfigured his plant to make masks.