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Posted on Wed, Jul 18, 2012 : 3:29 p.m.

A2Y Chamber Board Chair attends White House business forum

By Rebecca Woodward

Last month, the Chair of our Board of Directors Tom Harrison was honored with an invitation to the White House to participate in the Michigan Business Leaders’ Briefing with other Michigan business owners and community leaders. Members of the White House Economic Council (WHEC) including Mark Doms, Chief Economist of the Department of Commerce, and Ari Matusiak, Director of the White House Business Council lead discussions on job creation, business growth and current policy initiatives.

Thomas Harrison Picture.jpg

Tom Harrison, CEO of Michigan Ladder and Chair of the Ann Arbor / Ypsilanti Regional Chamber Board of Directors

According to Tom, representatives from the public sector, including local colleges and universities, were most interested in re-training the workforce and were excited to hear the WHEC presentation of the Workforce Investment Act of 2012 - a bill intended to streamline and improve workforce investment programs.

Meanwhile, delegates from the private sector were concerned with overall economic uncertainty and felt that inconsistency in regulations and taxes make it difficult for them to plan their businesses. Delegates also voiced concern over government spending. “The spending and unfunded obligations need to be brought under control,” Tom said, “because we all know that at some point it will have to be paid for.”

As owner and CEO of Michigan Ladder Company in Ypsilanti, Tom is well aware of the issues that face Michigan businesses. Michigan Ladder is the oldest full-line ladder manufacturer and distributor in the United States and Tom is only the fourth leader in the company’s 111-year history. He returned the company to profitability within a year of taking over as CEO in 2004 and has reduced the company’s debt, thereby improving its’ overall financial position.

Tom felt the White House meeting was effective in helping to communicate the needs of Michigan businesses to key policy-makers, but was less optimistic that any meaningful changes will come out of these meetings. Nonetheless, he believes it is always worthwhile to take advantage of opportunities to meet policy makers.

“If they call me 100 times, I will go 100 times,” he said.

Delegates also had the opportunity to tour the White House - including the East Wing and part of the private residence - and saw the newly unveiled official portraits of George and Laura Bush. Tom was able to bring his wife, Gina, and their kids along on the trip.

“I particularly enjoyed visiting the Gettysburg battlefield and torturing my children with a painfully detailed description of the battle,” Tom said. “We all went on the White House tour together and while I was in my meeting they visited all the sites in D.C.”

Learn more about the Ann Arbor / Ypsilanti Regional Chamber