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Bush Puts Off Filling Post After Kerry Criticizes Pick

March 11, 2004|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration on Wednesday abruptly postponed the announcement that a Nebraska businessman was its choice for a new post to help the country's beleaguered manufacturing sector.

The decision came after Democrat John F. Kerry criticized the job as "too little, too late" for the industry and his presidential campaign noted the expected nominee had set up a manufacturing operation in China.

A Commerce Department news conference to introduce President Bush's choice today was scrubbed, according to a news release from Secretary Don Evans' office, because of scheduling conflicts. It was not clear when the appointment would be announced.

While the administration did not publicly identify the nominee, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) said in a statement that it was Tony Raimondo, chairman and chief executive of Behlen Manufacturing Co., based in Columbus, Neb.

Behlen is a medium-sized manufacturing company with four plants in the United States. It employs more than 1,000 workers.

A company spokesman said Raimondo was unavailable for comment Wednesday.

Raimondo, who serves on the board of the National Assn. of Manufacturers, has talked openly about his decision to set up a joint operation with a Chinese company to run a factory in China, saying he needed to do it to compete more effectively for business in that market.

Kerry, in a statement from his campaign, said the decision to fill the new job of assistant secretary for manufacturing was "the last gasp of air from a failed administration" that had presided over the loss of more than 2.5 million manufacturing jobs.

The Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, said Raimondo's decision to set up a factory in China was another example of the shifting of American jobs overseas.

Bush used a Labor Day speech last year to announce the new post, saying the assistant secretary would be the administration's point person in putting a plan in place to bolster manufacturing in the United States.

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