Council Tool President John Council and his son, Cameron, traveled from their family’s 133-year old manufacturing plant in Lake Waccamaw to represent North Carolina Monday at the White House’s Made in America Product Showcase. It was their first time setting foot in the White House.
“It feels kind of surreal,” John Council said, standing behind an 8-foot table that contained a variety of the company’s forged tools, including axes and hammers. “We’re glad to be here. We’re really excited about it.”
Although he appreciated the invitation, John Council said he wasn’t sure why the company was selected to represent the state.
“When we ask they say ‘you’re supporting American manufacturing and employing American workers.” Council said. “So whatever the reason is, we’re just excited and thrilled to be here.”
Cameron Council, a supply chain manager with the family business, said his great-great grandfather John Pickett Council, who founded Council Tool, in 1886 would be honored to have the company represented at the White House.
“In a way, we are the American story,” Cameron Council said, explaining that the company’s products are still 100 percent American made. “And that won’t change.”
The showcase displays, spread throughout several rooms inside the White House, featured a wide range of products from one company in each state, including boots from Montana, cowboy hats from Wyoming and sandals from Florida.
Vice President Mike Pence toured the showcase, and the Councils were able to present him with a custom axe. Several members of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet attended, including Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
Large products, like motorcycles manufactured in Indiana and a boat built in South Carolina, were displayed on the south lawn of the White House where President Donald Trump addressed attendees, including the Councils, shortly after noon.
In his remarks, Trump touted strong economic growth under his administration, including 600,000 new manufacturing jobs since he was elected in 2016.
“And that number is going to go substantially higher,” the president said.
Trump said that last year saw the largest increase in manufacturing jobs in 25 years and that the United States is “reawakening our industrial might.”
In an interview prior to the speech, John Council praised the president’s stance on trade.
“This administration is the first in a long time that I think really gets it,” Council said. “There’s no such thing as free trade. There’s managed trade, and they’re taking a hard stance — particularly with China — which is I think is what’s required. We want a free market, we want a free enterprise culture, but we want our government fighting for us as far as trade is concerned.”