Facing America's Challenges
James F. Dicke II, Crown Equipment Corporation

James F. Dicke II

Editors’ Note

James Dicke assumed his current post in 2002. Before this, he was President from 1980 to 2002. Dicke graduated from Trinity University in 1968 with a B.S. in Business Administration. He was also granted an Honorary Doctor of Business from Ohio Northern University. From 1966 to 1967, he was Assistant to Congressman William M. McCulloch and was appointed to the President’s Export Council from 2006 to 2008. He was the International President of the Young Presidents’ Organization from 1992 to 1993. He is Chairman of the Commissioners of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Chairman Emeritus of the Dayton Art Institute.

Company Brief

Crown Equipment Corporation (www.crown.com) designs, manufactures, distributes, services, and supports material handling products that provide customers with superior value. Crown entered the material handling equipment industry in 1956, and designs and manufactures 85 percent of its lift truck components, including key parts like motors, drive units, and electronic modules. The company’s goal is to provide the user with the safest, most efficient, and ergonomic lift truck possible to lower total cost of ownership and increase uptime. A strong and extensive global dealer network provides a wide variety of quality material handling equipment, storage solutions, and support services.

What is America’s greatest challenge in the coming years?

With 5 percent of the world population but one-third of the world’s economic activity, the United States has abundant freedom, economic opportunity, and natural resources. Many challenges are ahead, but erosion of our economic strength is of special concern.

Customers really pay company taxes. A company must find a way to pass tax costs to customers or go out of business. When we impose an uneven tax burden on American companies compared to their non-American competition, we institutionalize an American business handicap that hurts us all.

It may be easier to impose taxes in hidden ways but even these work against America’s capacity to compete. For example, when public utilities are large payers of property taxes, those cost burdens work their way into the cost of all local products and also become one more daily economic burden for the middle class.

One could cite a number of industries that have now left the United States primarily for a more pro-business climate in other countries. The concern about lower labor rates in other countries is often more myth than hard mathematics. Production cost strategies are not simplistically based on labor costs alone or even currency exchange rates.

Companies often experience trouble as a result of decision making for short-term results. Long range planning horizons shrink. The focus for measuring success becomes the current budget year and the current quarter. When a company measures results this way to the exclusion of longer range challenges, they systematically make false assumptions. Such assumptions may include fixed currency exchange rates, stable interest rates, or long product life cycles. They may ignore new competitive challenges and decide to accept incremental market share losses to keep current profit margins strong. Product engineering gets older while more components get outsourced and adversarial supplier relationships multiply.

Almost all of us will spend most of our lives in the middle class and business tax challenges are already eroding our middle class economic prosperity. We must take this seriously. Even American workers in the lowest quartile are still among the top 15 percent of all the world’s wage earners; yet if we continue to see a deterioration of American middle class purchasing power, it will be an unbearable obstacle to continued prosperity. What the United States needs now more than ever is the national will to support business growth, fuel job creation, and encourage a rising standard of living for everyone.