August 13, 2006
Union Metal talk lures Lavin back home
By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service
WASHINGTON - Since he became undersecretary of commerce for
international trade last year, Franklin L. Lavin has been
jetting around the globe to such far-flung destinations as
China, Iraq, Afghanistan and India to promote U.S. trade.
But this weekend, Lavin’s travels took him in a different
direction — to his hometown of Canton, Ohio, where he is taking
four days to visit with his parents, meet with local business
executives and salute a Canton company.
Lavin, the top trade official in the U.S. Commerce Department,
is set to deliver the keynote address when Union Metal Corp., a
Canton-based manufacturer of light poles, celebrates its 100th
HE WANTED TO SPEAK
The former ambassador to Singapore said he “grabbed” the
invitation to speak at Union Metal when it was sent to his
immediate boss, U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez.
“I said, you know, that’s my hometown,” Lavin recalled during an
interview hours before his scheduled flight to Ohio on Friday.
“Union Metal wanted somebody from Washington to come to
commemorate the event, so I said, ‘Put in my name.’ ” The speech
at Union Metal will mark Lavin’s first official trip to Ohio
since he became undersecretary.
Lavin, whose parents, Carl and Audrey Lavin, still live in
Canton, said he plans to celebrate the company’s success in his
Employment at the company has grown by 25 percent in the last
two years, an achievement Lavin said may offer “some broader
lessons or points about the U.S. economy and U.S. economic
growth and competitiveness.”
He also has scheduled meetings with executives at the Timken Co.
in Canton and the J.M. Smucker Co. in Orrville, two global
enterprises that are based locally. Lavin also plans to visit
Germany later this year or early next year at the invitation of
the U.S. ambassador there, William R. “Tim” Timken Jr.
He and the former Timken Co. chairman want to discuss
initiatives that could improve the already-strong economic
relationship between the two countries, he said.
Like Timken, Lavin was a prolific fundraiser for Bush’s first
campaign, leading to his appointment as ambassador. He also
served in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W.
The one-time banker and venture capitalist in the Pacific Rim
took over as undersecretary last November after the Senate
confirmed his nomination by President Bush. His duties include
promoting American exports, administering U.S. trade laws and
developing trade policy.
Lavin, 48, insists he’s having a great time in his new role.
“I love it,” he said. “With all respect to the president and my
secretary (Gutierrez), I think I’ve got the best job in
Washington because U.S. businesses are competing and winning
every day around the world. I get to work with them and help
them — U.S. workers and farmers — get their products to market.”
Lavin is preparing to lead his first trade mission, a trip to
India in late November, which he said will be the largest U.S.
trade mission so far.
About 200 companies are expected to take part, including several
from Ohio. The names of those companies have not been released
yet, and it is unknown whether any will be from Stark,
Tuscarawas or Carroll counties.
Though India is still considered poor by U.S. standards, Lavin
said the world’s second-most populous nation has a large,
growing middle class, a lucrative market for American products.
During his first nine months in the job, Lavin has focused on
the problems and opportunities posed by China, a rising
industrial power that he said will surpass Japan as the third
largest export market for the United States by the end of the
year. Canada and Mexico rank first and second as destinations
for American exports.
As the nation’s lead trade negotiator with China, Lavin said
he’s been pressing for greater access for U.S. products and
better compliance with trade laws. “China’s not there yet but
they’re moving the right way,” he said.