COLUMBUS, Ind. — One company & one family loom large over this city, intertwined for decades. Cummins Inc. is the biggest employer in Columbus, built into a $20 billion heavy equipment manufacturer with the help of Mike Pence, who as governor passed pro-business tax cuts & made trade visits to China on its behalf…
But the alliance of the past is being threatened by the administration Mike Pence now serves, as President Trump’s trade war with multiple nations clobbers Cummins & other local companies.
According to the Brookings Inst, the Columbus area is the most export-reliant region in the country, with just over half of its economic output linked to foreign purchases.
“I’m very worried,” said Tom Linebarger, the chief executive of Cummins, who met with President Trump over dinner at the WH in January in a bid to dissuade him from introducing steel & aluminum tariffs or tearing up free trade agreements.
Linebarger, 55, warns of job losses ahead because thousands of jobs at Cummins & elsewhere in the area depend on trade…
Cummins plants produced the drill that powered the famous rescue of Chilean miners in 2010 & the emergency generator at the Statue of Liberty.
Now the aggressive pursuit of foreign trade that made this city a recession-busting economic miracle has made it decidedly vulnerable, with businesses already canceling projects & mulling the depth of job losses.
The Cummins plants…, epitomize how deeply international trade has become rooted in cities & towns throughout the nation. Cummins alone has 25,000 different suppliers & also its own chain of distribution, both of them largely international. Its U.S. base is bolstered by operations in the U.K., China & India.
Linebarger said the president’s trade war hits the company in two ways, affecting both its incoming parts, which will be subject to tariffs, & its own products, on which retaliatory penalties will be assessed by countries targeted by Trump.
For Cummins, the two most corrosive tariffs will be those assessed on steel & aluminum, which began July 1 & cover $48 billion of imports, & the proposed $351 billion of automobile & auto part imports. Both have been justified as necessary for national security…
“We almost put the factory in India. We evaluated the U.K. & China too. If we’d seen trade barriers at that point, we’d definitely have made a different decision,” says Linebarger.