I am a business owner, a proud Republican and a voter who supports President Donald Trump's campaign to level U.S. trade imbalances.
I am also angry, frustrated and a little scared, because the unintended consequences of the president's $50 billion tariffs on China would cripple my business in Auburn Hills, Mich., and strip my 50 employees of their good-paying jobs.
This is crazy.
My company, Lucerne International, makes cast, stamped and forged components and assemblies for the automotive and heavy-truck industries. Our largest contract is for the Jeep Wrangler. As one of the world's only companies producing Class-A forgings, we make the door, hood, windshield and tailgate hinges that sit outside Wranglers like polished jewels.
We're damn proud of this work.
It starts overseas — we have seven plants in Asia, where the hinges are manufactured. They are shipped to the Lucerne plant outside Detroit, inspected, repackaged and sent to another auto supplier for assembly before being shipped to Toledo for installation on the vehicle.
That's a supply chain: Thousands of American jobs.
Billions of American dollars.
And it's all in danger.
For some strange and destructive reasons, the proposed Trump tariffs include an obscure provision calling for a 25 percent tax on "iron or steel, aluminum, or zinc hinges and base metal parts … designed for motor vehicles."
Those are our hinges. As far as I know, no other company falls under this provision buried in a $50 billion list of products. For every $2,000 in duties proposed by the U.S., $1 directly impacts Lucerne.
For the life of me, I can't figure out why my certified, woman-owned company in the heart of Trump country is being targeted.
Beijing will pass that tax onto me. My customers — other U.S. auto suppliers and U.S. auto companies — will not absorb the cost, nor will U.S. auto buyers. It's a tax on my Michigan company and my Michigan employees, and we can't absorb it.
Ninety percent of our more than $40 million in revenues is tied to products that fall under the new tariff provision. Unless the president grants an exclusion, Lucerne will fold.
I'm angry and scared.
Scared that my president is about to make a terrible mistake.
Scared for my employees, who love their jobs, who make good money, and who get their college tuitions paid.
Scared for my community and my country, which is about to be blindsided by a bad policy forged of best intentions.
On the big picture, the president is right: U.S. trade deficit needs to be tamed. But, please, not this way — and not when Lucerne is poised to grow to $50 million in revenue next year and expand its Michigan work force by 25 percent.
Grant us an exclusion, Mr. President. Give us time to finish our work and bring manufacturing back to Michigan.
Because there is not enough capacity to make these parts anywhere in the United States, we were planning on opening a manufacturing plant in central Michigan to reshore this work. But it takes time to bend the arc of economic change — much more time than allowed under the administration's trade strategy. It also requires a re-engineering of the American work force.
With 4 percent unemployment, we have a hard time finding people to work in our plant.
One of the reasons for the strong Trump economy: The number of workers in the U.S. who make products made from steel is higher than the number of workers who make steel itself. Billions of dollars are pumped into the American economy by the unique and ingenious ways U.S. companies use steel and aluminum components — like we do at Lucerne.
I wonder: Does President Trump know that his tariff on imported components threatens almost every manufacturing job in Michigan?
Does he know that my little company in my little corner of Michigan would lose 90 percent of its business overnight? Does he understand that a 25 percent tax on the components Lucerne uses would evaporate my profit margins? Would shut us down?
I don't think he does. Because I know my president cares — and I've got to believe he will change his mind, grant sensible exclusions, and help companies such as Lucerne make America great again.