An Omaha business owner expressed concern about escalating global trade confrontations as the administrator of the Small Business Administration visited his factory Thursday.
Linda McMahon toured the Omaha manufacturing plant whose owner said he appreciated the Trump administration’s tax cuts, but said he hoped McMahon would relay to the president his concerns over tariffs being enacted.
Elliott Equipment, which makes aerial work platforms, boom truck crane equipment and diggers for utility poles, hosted McMahon as part of a national SBA tour.
Elliott Equipment President Jim Glazer said Trump administration tariffs on steel have increased production costs for the company. Glazer said some suppliers have used tariffs as an excuse to raise prices overall.
“She knows the effect it has, not just on our business, but potentially on the economy in general,” Glazer said. “I feel good about her ability to communicate that back with the president and they’ll handle the situation appropriately.”
McMahon said in an interview with The World-Herald that she understands the short-term effects tariffs might be having on small businesses, but said it’s a long game.
McMahon referenced President Donald Trump’s recent comments about the price of soybeans.
“He’s clearly looking to right that. He says it is going to take some time but in the end we’re going to win,” she said. China has said it would cancel most of its soybean orders for the rest of this year’s buying season.
[Read more: Along with the crops, anxiety grows for farmers caught in Trump-China trade fight]
She added that most small-business owners she’s spoken with have supported the overall idea that the United States needs fairer trade policies. Most owners she’s spoken with also remain optimistic about the economy, she said.
While tariffs have been a challenge for Elliott Equipment, Glazer said the company has seen benefits from Trump’s tax cut package passed last year.
McMahon concurred. “So many small businesses are telling me they’re benefiting from the tax cuts,” she said. “It’s more money in their pocket as well as consumers’ pockets, so they have many more customers coming through their doors.”
McMahon has firsthand experience with starting and running a business. She and her husband, Vince McMahon, co-founded the WWE wrestling empire.
Glazer said Elliott has grown from 20 employees to 165 employees in his family’s 27 years of ownership. That growth has come with the challenge of finding and hiring skilled workers, especially with Omaha’s ultra-low unemployment rate of around 3 percent.
[Read more: The problem with Omaha’s low unemployment rate]
“The president is on it,” McMahon said of the worker shortage in some places and in some industries. She said she expects Trump will make an announcement soon about public-private partnerships and working with schools in training and retraining of workers.
“It’s a whole paradigm shift to be able to provide that workforce we need for the 21st century,” she said.
McMahon will move on to Des Moines; her goal is to visit every SBA district office within two years.