Friday, May 11, 2012

Andrew Liveris: the gift that keeps giving

Andrew Liveris was interviewed on Marketplace yesterday, and he brought his trademark foot-in-mouth-ism with him. Here he is, identifying the dark matter problem in the universe:
Ryssdal: What do you do when the first thing that most people think of when Dow Chemical comes to mind is "oh man, whatever they make is probably toxic. It's chemicals, it's hydrocarbons -- holy geez, I don't want any of that stuff." 
Liveris: Yeah, it's a branding topic. So we've got to go out there and really re-educate humanity, because at the end of the day, 95 percent of all products out there have chemistry in them. 
As both Dr. Rubidium (~nsfw language) and See Arr Oh already said, what's the other 5%?!?

Of course, Liveris was trying to say that most, if not all, manufactured products use products from the chemical industry. But it would have been really nice if Mr. Liveris (a chemical engineer) would also have attempted to correct Ryssdal's suggested stereotype a little more forcefully. "I believe chemicals can be a force for good for humanity" or something equally cheesy might have helped. (Who knows, perhaps it ended up on the digital equivalent of the cutting room floor.)

While Mr. Liveris did not take the time to push his trademark "STEM degree holders get paid bazillions of dollars right out of school" baloney, he did try to steal second on jobs:
Ryssdal: And I'd be curious as to your perspective -- as a foreigner but one who has spent a lot of time in this country -- what your take is on the wailing and gnashing of teeth of the loss of American industry and manufacturing.
Liveris: The word manufacturing, you know, even the word industry just doesn't sit well. People think about it as a smokestack, environmental, yesterday's era; that everything should be services. Well last time I checked, you've gotta invent stuff, make stuff and sell stuff -- and then you'll service stuff. But if you don't do those first three things, who are you servicing? We really have to get our heads out of the notion that we can just be a service economy. 
The whole point I made from a Dow Chemical perspective is not only are we re-branding our company, but we're re-branding our industry. We're re-branding what science, technology, engineering, maths mean to this economy and how we can transfer that into American jobs for the next generation.
Boy, that sounds nice, doesn't it? (But what does it all mean, Basil?)

I'm pretty skeptical about Andrew Liveris' talk about American manufacturing jobs. It seems to me that he's consistently pushing for policies that will benefit his corporation without committing to siting manufacturing facilities in the United States. That is his prerogative as a CEO of a multinational corporation -- but don't try to dress it up in happy talk about "American jobs for the next generation."


  1. I heard part of the interview live and meant to go and listen to the whole thing. Should I skip it to avoid the annoying parts?

  2. Servicing?! Is Dow in the bull semen business now, or did I miss something?

  3. "It seems to me that he's consistently pushing for policies that will benefit his corporation without committing to siting manufacturing facilities in the United States."

    Apparently this is written by someone whom doesn't read the news...

    Solar Shingle production plant to be constructed and operated on Michigan:

    Dow to invest $4b in Texas:

    There are many more examples of hundreds of millions of dollars dedicated to domestic investments by Dow Chemical

  4. I believe Liveris is refering to manufacturing in general, not just chemical manufacturing. It's the makers of widgets of all sorts that need to buy plastics, resins, solvents, surfactants, etc. from companies like Dow. When the widget makers send manufacturing overseas, companies like Dow lose their domestic customers. Hence, more general manufacturing here, more sales for Dow here.

    I do agree that Dow has made investiments in the US over the past few years. On the other hand, Liveris laid off 3500 Rohm and Haas workers. One must take the good with the bad, I suppose.


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