AUSTIN — Several small business owners said at a Republican-sponsored forum Thursday that they adore President Donald Trump’s tax cuts and deregulation policies.
But the event’s host, a printing-company owner, said he disagrees with “some things about President Trump.” He declined to be more specific.
State GOP Chairman James Dickey, emcee and co-sponsor of the Trump reelection campaign’s “Open for Business” roundtable in north Austin, acknowledged that some recent tweets by the president have been odd.
But the business owners and Dickey shrugged off talk of Trump’s Twitter eruptions. Instead, they attributed the country’s low unemployment rate and what they described as their businesses’ surging profits as products of Trump economic policies.
“I’m a big promoter of the tax reform, and I think it’s working,” said Round Rock hotel company owner Hitesh Patel.
Patel, chief executive of Capital City Hospitality Group and immediate past chairman of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, said the 2017 tax law’s provisions on exchanges of real estate have helped his company expand by more than 50 employees.
Most of the roundtable’s participants are in the services industry and specialty manufacturing. Perhaps because they’re not directly affected, none complained of Trump’s tariffs and trade war with China and other nations.
Dickey, though, said Trump has negotiated “a dramatically better” trade agreement with Mexico and Canada. Congress hasn’t ratified the deal.
Asked about Trump’s tweet last week that called his own appointee, Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell, a bigger enemy than China, Dickey said it shouldn’t rattle business people or others as they ponder the president’s reelection.
Trump tweeted, “My only question is, who is our bigger enemy, Jay Powell or Chairman Xi?”
….My only question is, who is our bigger enemy, Jay Powell or Chairman Xi?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 23, 2019
Dickey said, “The tweet I saw was phrased as a question. That’s certainly unusual, and President Trump has been unusual since long before he began to run. The American people decided they were comfortable with that.”
Dickey, who is in the insurance business in Austin, noted the unemployment rate in Texas has decreased to 3.8 percent, from 4.8 percent when Trump took office.
Waving his hand at roundtable participants, he continued, “The biggest thing companies here have to worry about is government getting invasive again.”
Event host Bob Thomas, owner of Thomas Graphics, which for a quarter-century has printed mail and campaign material for leading Texas Republicans, said accelerated depreciation schedules in Trump’s tax cut bill allowed him to buy $625,000 worth of new equipment last year.
Thomas Graphics hired three new employees because of the expansion. It is looking for two more, he said. Trump’s deregulation policies also are having a “trickle-down” effect that helps small entrepreneurs, Thomas said.
“There’s some things about President Trump that some of us don’t particularly like,” Thomas said. “But the economy drives it all, especially for small business.”
Asked to elaborate on what he dislikes about Trump, Thomas demurred.
Round Rock roofing business co-owner Stacie Feller credited Trump with boosting businesses’ confidence.
She and her husband Scott’s Kanga Roof Austin has has more than tripled its revenue and more than doubled its payroll, to 24 employees, since January 2017, she said.
“I’m very proud to say with some of the tax cuts, some of the things, this year, 2019, was the first year we were able to offer health insurance and a simple [Individual Retirement Account] plan for our employees,” she said. “We just couldn’t afford it before.”
Several entrepreneurs said their biggest problem now is finding employees.
Texas Democratic Party spokesman Abhi Rahman said Trump benefited from — and is about to squander — former President Barack Obama’s good economy.
“This is what Trump’s economic policies have created: a crippling trade war with China, stagnant job growth, crushing tariffs, and a tax plan that’s squeezed the middle class and only benefited millionaires and billionaires,” he said.