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NAM Hires Ex-Gov. Engler as CEO

With U.S. manufacturing becoming central to this year’s presidential election, the National Association of Manufacturers has tapped former Michigan Gov. John Engler (R) — a key ally of President Bush — as the new chief of the 17,000-member manufacturers’ lobby.

Engler was named president and chief executive officer of NAM on Tuesday, succeeding Jerry Jasinowski, a Democrat who is retiring after a 12-year reign as president. Engler will assume control in October.

The choice of Engler was a surprise. Many had predicted that the job would go to the trade association’s No. 2 man and longtime head lobbyist, Michael Baroody.

Baroody, a Washington, D.C., native and Republican loyalist, cut his teeth working for former President Ronald Reagan. During the GOP’s 1980 convention, Baroody helped to draft the platform that served as the basis for Reagan’s victory over then-President Jimmy Carter.

But the choice of the former three-term governor from a manufacturing state is sure to give the manufacturers’ trade group new star power inside and outside of the Beltway.

NAM — the nation’s largest industrial trade association with a $20 million budget and a staff of 170 — conducted a six-month search for a president and CEO who could advance the interests of manufacturers on Capitol Hill and nationwide through policy know-how and skills in public relations.

Engler is “an ideal choice,” said Richard Dauch, the head of Detroit-based American Axle & Manufacturing and chairman of NAM. “Engler’s track record in Michigan shows that he understands manufacturers and their workers, the importance of manufacturing to the country, and how to get things done.”

The former Michigan governor will join NAM after a brief tenure in the Washington-based office of Electronic Data Systems.

Saying that America’s legacy is “making things,” Engler said he plans during his tenure to ensure that the trade association “will play a vital role in making sure it remains our destiny. I believe America must continue to be a nation where innovative enterprises and productive workers can make products that will set the standard for the world.”

Engler left the governorship a little more than a year ago after serving three terms — almost certainly the last governor of Michigan who will ever do so, since the state approved term limits during his tenure.

Engler began his career in the state Legislature in 1970 at age 22. He was elected to his first term as governor in 1990.

Engler also spent some time working the corridors of power in Washington. As head of the Republican Governors Association, Engler helped push the GOP’s welfare reform bill through Congress in 1996.

Engler and Bush became political allies when the president was governor of Texas. When Bush ran for president in 2000, Engler worked all-out for his GOP colleague, though he was ultimately unable to produce for Bush.

In 1999, Engler approved legislation to accelerate the state’s primary to late February — the earliest of any big battleground state that year — but hundreds of thousands of independent voters flooded the polls on Election Day, handing Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) a victory over Bush. Nine months later, Al Gore defeated Bush 51 percent to 46 percent in the state.

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