Tim Pawlenty On Government, Business And Running The Race

After a long career as an elected politician, T-Paw now sits on the other side of the street to advocate for the interests of big business.

Tim Pawlenty served two terms as governor of Minnesota before throwing his hat into the race for the 2012 Presidential Republican nomination. His public service career includes four years as a city council member and ten in the Minnesota House of Representatives, including four years as House Majority Leader. Under Pawlenty’s leadership, Minnesota ranked first among states in Fortune 500 companies per capita, first in overall quality of life, first in homeownership, first in percentage of residents with a high school diploma, and first in residents over 25 with a bachelor’s degree. Minnesota has the highest average ACT scores in the nation and recently was named the “Healthiest State in America.”

Tim PawlentyAfter leaving office in January 2011, Pawlenty said he “had what it took to lead the country” and announced in May his candidacy for the Republican nomination. Three months later, he pulled out of the race after a poor showing in Iowa. In September 2012, he became head of the Financial Services Roundtable, a lobbying advocacy group in Washington D.C.

Pawlenty will be the one of the keynote speakers at GAWDA’s Spring Management Conference in Chicago. He sat down with Welding & Gases Today’s Editor Carole Jesiolowski to talk about the current state of the economy, the 2016 election, and what small business owners can do to save America.

WGT: As CEO and president of the Financial Services Roundtable, what is your role?

TP: I represent large integrated financial services companies such as banks, mutual fund, insurance, payment, asset management and alternative finance companies. The association is part advocacy group and part think tank, and we work on developing policies that will help the nation’s financial infrastructure. Right now, we are working on rebuilding the reputation of the industry. We’ve made some growth, but a lot more is needed.

You were anti Wall Street as a presidential candidate. How do you reconcile that with your role at FSR?

I was fairly critical of Wall Street when I was a candidate. Some entities within the industry made a lot of bad decisions. I am a fresh, new, constructive voice in the debate as I represent our members and their policy goals.

What are the issues FSR is working on in 2014?

The housing market, particularly reforming how mortgages get issued and originated, serviced and underwritten remains very important. In the area of payments, there has been a flood of new technology in how people pay for services and there will be regulatory information emerging. Cyber security is a huge issue. People are doing more transactions in cyberspace and there is a need for the industry and government to work together. And there is still a lot of work to be done with Dodd-Frank.

As governor of Minnesota, you were well known for taking business leaders on trips to foreign countries: China, India, Israel, the Czech Republic, among others. What have been the long-term results for the state’s economy? Did any foreign companies establish locations  in your state, and how many local companies now export goods to those countries?

The point of those trips was to get our policy holders and stake holders to experience high-level interactions with counterparts in other countries and hope it would lead to specific deals. We wanted to highlight the importance of trade. The U.S. market is mature, so our ability as a country to access those markets could be very beneficial. There are some individual success stories, but the idea wasn’t to be a matchmaker. The idea was to promote trade.

What do you think is the number one issue in our country?

The main engine to an economic recovery is small- to medium-sized businesses. The federal government has to fuel that engine. Right now, the number one issue in our country is how to provide jobs and have the people with the skills for those jobs. What can we do to make it more likely that small businesses are going to start up, grow and add jobs? That’s best answered by the people who start and grow small businesses. Policy makers should be acutely aware of those answers.

You were a two-term Republican governor with a Democratic-controlled senate. Any advice for President Obama as he works with a very partisan Congress?

Focus on the art of the possible. There are some things the Democrats will never do, and there are some things the Republicans will never do. In the short amount of time President Obama has left, I think he should focus on what can be done. The Keystone Pipeline is one example. Compromise means taking hits from your own team to get to the common ground.

As a proponent of comprehensive medical insurance in Minnesota, what is your take on the Affordable Care Act and how it will impact private business?

I think the private market is the wrong way to go. There are some components of it that are favorable, like not excluding people with pre-existing conditions. I think costs will go up dramatically and significantly for companies to offer insurance to their employees. And then there are the penalties employers may be required to pay.

Your presidential candidacy was short-lived. Why didn’t you stay in the race? Some would ask, why did you give up so early in the process?

Yes, my candidacy had less longevity than a Kardashian marriage. I believe candidates do better the second time around. No, I am not running again! Among other things, I learned that a candidate has to have a big national financial network. I had regional support which was not enough to sustain a campaign. The candidate also must have somebody step forward to run and fund a Super PAC. This involves a level of support I didn’t have. Also, there’s a fusion of news and entertainment in politics now that puts the candidate at a level of almost cartoonish presentation. I realized too late in the process that I had to have presentive ways that punch through, those sound-bite levels that get picked up by the media.

You announced that you would be running for president on Facebook. What are your thoughts about businesses using social media to communicate with their customers?

Many businesses and sectors are being disrupted by technology in many ways. People across the country are gaining knowledge, information and insight through social media. If you don’t have an effective social media presence, you miss an opportunity; worse, it could be detrimental to your business. Technology will continue to evolve dramatically, and I think businesses must be aware of how their customers are using it.

If the Financial Services Roundtable position did not become available, what would you be doing now?

Right defense for the Minnesota Wild ice hockey team. My dream job would have been to be a professional hockey player. I now play in an Oldtimers league, which isn’t that bad, because I’m now one of the youngest. I do enjoy my job a great deal; it keeps me in public policy and allows me to lean into business and financial issues.

Who do you think will be the presidential candidates in 2016?

If she chooses to run, Hillary Clinton will be the runaway favorite for the Democrats. On the Republican side, there is a whole new crop of emerging leaders who have been the party’s bench strength and include Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Mike Pence, Scott Walker, Paul Ryan, Susana Martinez, Bobby Jindal, among others.

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