3M’s CEO says Obama is driving firms away

  • Article by: SUSAN FEYDER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 1, 2011 - 6:15 AM

George Buckley said that President Obama’s “anti-business” attitudes could have manufacturers shifting production out of the U.S. to Canada or Mexico.

George Buckley

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3M Co. CEO George Buckley said in an interview with the Financial Times that President Obama's "anti-business" attitudes could have manufacturers shifting production out of the U.S. to Canada or Mexico.

"We know what his instincts are -- they are Robin Hood-esque," he told the newspaper.

Buckley said companies could shift operations out of the U.S. as a result.

About two-thirds of the Maplewood giant's $26.7 billion in sales last year came from outside the U.S. In its most recent annual report, the company said it has 76 manufacturing operations in 28 states and about 115 in 38 foreign countries.

It isn't the first time Buckley has said public policy could spur 3M to expand overseas instead of in the United States. In a speech to business leaders last year at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, Buckley emphasized that elected officials need to cut corporate taxes, adding that combined federal and state corporate taxes in Minnesota are among the highest in the world.

"If I have a chance to invest in a factory in Ireland at zero [corporate taxes], or a factory in Korea at 15 percent, or a factory in Singapore at zero, or a factory in Germany at 25, why would I want to invest in Minnesota or the United States?" Buckley said in an interview after his St. Thomas speech.

He also said the economic stimulus package was "the economic parallel to giving a man a fish instead of teaching him how to fish."

3M spokeswoman Jacqueline Berry said Monday that the company had gotten a few calls -- some praising and other criticizing Buckley's most recent remarks -- since they were published Sunday.

Berry said Buckley was speaking as 3M CEO in the Financial Times interview. Last year the company contributed $100,000 to MN Forward, a political action group that supported conservative Republican Tom Emmer for governor.

"Politicians forget that business has choice," Buckely told the Financial Times. "If it's hostile, incrementally, things will slip away. We've got a real choice between manufacturing in Canada and Mexico -- which tend to be pro-business -- or America." He also said the difficulty of obtaining visas is forcing companies like 3M to move research and development facilities overseas.

In remarks to investors, Buckley has frequently emphasized the strategic advantages of having all types of operations in foreign markets. "You have to be local. You have to become them," he said at an investors' conference in New York in December.

Buckley's criticism of Obama comes as the administration has tried to be more conciliatory toward business interests. Last month, the president created a jobs and competitiveness council whose members are executives of companies that include GE, American Express, DuPont and Kodak.

Susan Feyder • 612-673-1723

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