Dow CEO: Chemical sector started manufacturing boom that can continue under Trump

The shale boom offered a “lease on life” for the petrochemical sector to create new manufacturing in the U.S., and a broader manufacturing boom could continue under President Donald Trump, said Andrew Liveris, the longtime chairman and CEO of Dow Chemical.

Recently tapped by Trump to lead his Manufacturing Jobs Initiative, Liveris said he sees the potential for an “American manufacturing renaissance” — one that embraces technology while training workers for the future.

Speaking at the end of the CERAWeek by IHS Markit conference in Houston, Liveris promoted fair and open global trade, but he noted the understandable resistance to globalization.

Liveris said he supported the notion of a globalization “pause,” but hopefully one that doesn’t last long. There’s a need to recalibrate and ensure that global growth doesn’t come at the expense of American workers. “It’s so important to not leave a substantial part of humanity behind,” he said.

Liveris is taking more of a lead with Trump in part because he’s retiring later this year after the $130 billion Dow merger with DuPont is completed. DuPont CEO Ed Breen will be the CEO of the merged DowDuPont.

However, Liveris, a native of Australia, was critical of Trump early in the presidential campaign, calling it the coming of the “Kardashian presidency.”

Dow Chemical is buoyed of late by the cheap and ample natural gas feedstock in the U.S., leading to Dow investing more than $6 billion in expansions along the Gulf Coast, primarily south of Houston in Freeport and Lake Jackson.

“‘We ain’t done yet,’ as Texans say,” Liveris said. “We’ve got more to invest.”

However, he admitted the merger is largely investor driven. After the merger, DowDuPont will be splintered into three separate companies, including one still named Dow that would continue to own and run the Freeport complex.

The materials science business would operate under the Dow name, the agribusiness under DuPont and specialty products under a yet-to-be determined brand.

Not enough investors think long-term and that hurts larger businesses, Liveris said. “It does mean you have to go less diversified or more focused.” So there will be three highly focused DowDupont companies.

“There’s a lot of money to be made in money,” he said. “The money sector is wanting to measure us.