President-elect Donald Trump made plain in an Instagram post last week that his administration would follow two rules: buy American and hire American.
After winning the White House behind the promise to “Make America Great Again,” Trump’s most public actions since becoming the president-elect have centered on keeping or creating jobs in America. And the sparring with corporate America began just days after Trump’s election win.
But there’s an easy way for companies to avoid getting caught in the crosshairs of a late-night or early-morning tweet from the PEOTUS: announce any existing or potential plans to invest in the US right now.
In mid-November, Trump took credit for keeping production of the Lincoln MKC SUV in Kentucky instead of moving this work to Mexico. Ford (F), which owns Lincoln, noted that it did not, however, have any plans close US plants as a result of this previously-announced production move.
Remember, the Trump administration wants to buy American and hire American, and under this framework it has become clear that “investing abroad, retaining in America” is not going to cut it.
And at least so far, it seems Trump is getting results.
Ford had announced plans to increase its investment in Mexico and move all of its small-car production south of the border. The company said no US jobs would be lost because of the move, according to Reuters. But these roundabout assurances that no US jobs would be lost as a result of production moving to Mexico are not the kind of win that Donald Trump’s nascent political career has been built around.
On Tuesday, Ford announced that it would scuttle plans to invest $1.6 billion in Mexico and instead invest $700 million to expand a plant in Michigan. The company said this expansion would create 700 new jobs.
Ford said in a statement that this move was part of the company’s “$4.5 billion investment in electrified vehicles by 2020, offering customers greater fuel efficiency, capability and power across Ford’s global vehicle lineup.”
Certainly, however, this decision is not simply about Ford’s strategic direction. In its statement, Ford also said that canceling its Mexico investment would see the next generation of its Focus car built at an existing plant in Mexico, thereby “safeguarding” 3,500 US jobs.
And while “safeguarding” is not the kind of word you might’ve expected a company to use with regard to US-based jobs a few years ago, in Trump’s America it is clear that companies’ think anything — no matter how incremental — to keep jobs in the US will likely win favor from the government.
And this strategy is not limited just to US-based companies. Sprint (S), which is 82% owned by Japanese conglomerate SoftBank (SFTBF), said last month it would create 5,000 jobs by the end of its fiscal year ending March 2018. OneWeb, a US satellite company that SoftBank also hold a stake in, said it would create 3,000 jobs at the company and its suppliers, according to Reuters.
This news came after Masayoshi Son, CEO of SoftBank, said following a meeting with Trump in December that he would invest $50 billion in the US and create 50,000 jobs.
And so not only does Ford get to invest fewer total dollars — though with $900 million in announced capex now off the table, one imagines a future investment announcement could follow — but it almost certainly puts the company on better footing with the incoming administration.
So here’s a bit of advice to executives across the US: If your company is even thinking about creating additional jobs in America, announce those plans now. And if you’ve already announced plans to create jobs or invest in the US, you should re-announce those plans now.
And make sure sure to tag Trump in the tweet.
Myles Udland is a writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @MylesUdland
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