Dependent on trade, Mike Pence’s hometown takes a hit due to Trump’s tariffs

One company and one family loom large over this city, intertwined for decades. Cummins Inc. is the biggest employer in Columbus, built into a $20 billon heavy equipment manufacturer with the help of Mike Pence, who as governor passed pro-business tax cuts and made trade visits to China on its behalf.

.. Pence’s older brother Edward joined Cummins after graduating from college and worked there for four decades, running one of its most lucrative engine plants

.. According to the Brookings Institution, the Columbus area is the most export-reliant region in the country, with just over half of its economic output linked to foreign purchases.

.. Pence’s hometown oozes internationalism: 40 foreign companies have a presence, more than half of them Japanese engines and auto-parts plants, employing almost 10,000 people. The area’s schools collectively speak 51 languages. The city ranks second in the nation in the per capita percentage of H-1B visas for foreign workers.

.. Cummins plants produced the drill that powered the famous rescue of Chilean miners in 2010 and the emergency generator at the Statue of Liberty.

.. The Cummins plants, which produce engines, generators and other equipment, epitomize how deeply international trade has become rooted in cities and towns throughout the nation. Cummins alone has 25,000 different suppliers and also its own chain of distribution, both of them largely international. Its U.S. base is bolstered by operations in the United Kingdom, China and India.

.. Linebarger said the president’s trade war hits the company in two ways, affecting both its incoming parts, which will be subject to tariffs, and its own products, on which retaliatory penalties will be assessed by countries targeted by Trump.

.. For Cummins, the two most corrosive tariffs will be those assessed on steel and aluminum

.. one of our biggest projects in recent times was canceled because of steel prices

.. “It would take some time to produce our materials here. We fear Taiwan will swoop in and take the competition away from us,”

.. Cummins has applied to the White House for an exemption from the tariffs. Three GOP House members in Indiana — Reps. Jim Banks, Susan Brooks and Jackie Walorski — joined more than a hundred House Republicans in expressing “deep concern” about tariffs in a letter to Trump in March that requested a series of exemptions.

.. “Tariffs are not just hitting people in places like Columbus, it’s also farms which make soy beans and corn,” she said.

.. Pence has run a muted campaign, refusing to attend candidate debates and declining to release a public schedule. His most public comments so far came when he defended himself after it was revealed that his gas station company’s bankruptcy had cost taxpayers $20 million in contamination costs.

.. His views on tariffs are nevertheless clear: his website says he fully backs the “Trump-Pence agenda” and favors a “level playing field” when it comes to international trade. Neither Greg Pence nor the vice president responded to requests for comment, but the administration in the past has said the tariffs may produce pain but are necessary for future economic growth.

.. Most of our parts come from China. I think we’re gonna feel this trade war a whole lot faster than what people are saying. There’s a saying, ‘Trust God, everyone else bring data.’ I don’t think we’re doing that.”