Politics & Government

‘It’s Texas. They like me in Texas,’ Trump tells crowd at Louis Vuitton workshop

President Donald Trump traveled to Johnson County Thursday afternoon to tout a new Louis Vuitton workshop and to praise company officials for keeping hundreds of manufacturing jobs in the United States.

He grinned when he made sure CEO Bernard Arnault knew that he is quite familiar with his company.

“Louis Vuitton — a name I know very well,” he said “It (has) cost me a lot of money over the years.”

Trump stopped in this rural county to promote job creation in the United States. The visit followed a fundraiser in Fort Worth and preceded his rally in Dallas.

His office said 774,400 jobs, including 70,700 in manufacturing, have been added in Texas since he became president.

This facility here, on the sprawling Rochambeau Ranch in Keene, about 30 miles south of downtown Fort Worth, will have great pay and great 401(k) plans, he said. The jobs on the line start at $13 an hour, according to the Wall Street Journal.

While praising Louis Vuitton, he noted that most 401(k) plans across the country “have gone through the roof” since he was elected.

And because “no one wants to see them cut in half ... when (voters) go to push that lever ... I think we will do very well.”

Trump was joined by a slew of dignitaries, including his daughter Ivanka, and Energy Secretary and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has announced his resignation.

U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, a Republican whose district includes this workshop, was among those in the crowd.

“Roger Williams, a friend of mine, (is) a very brave gentleman,” Trump said. “Is this your territory, Roger? ... I see why they like you.”

When Williams noted that Texans like Trump, the president responded: “It’s Texas. They like me in Texas.”

150 employed at Louis Vuitton plant

About 150 workers make purses and other leather goods such as suitcases and backpacks.

The opening of the plant, where many of the bags created will feature a “Made In the USA” tag, comes at a time when manufacturing jobs have moved overseas to countries such as India and China.

The goal is to employ 1,000 workers here in the next five years, Louis Vuitton officials say.

Before Trump arrived to take a tour and give a brief speech, dozens of workers were crafting purses and luggage at work stations throughout the stone and glass building. U.S., France and Texas flags hang from the ceiling.

Trump announced that Louis Vuitton officials have signed the Pledge to America’s Workers, an initiative by his administration to create “better jobs that deliver bigger paychecks” to workers.

Company officials haven’t said what the workers earn. But they stress that “artisans” here are trained with “the Louis Vuitton craftsmanship and Savoir-Faire to create bags with the same quality and process as all of our workshops.”

“Every year, Louis Vuitton will pay more than $26 million in wages,” Trump said Thursday.

Louis Vuitton operates 24 workshops worldwide, including two in California. Most of the workshops are in Europe, company officials have said.

In Johnson County, officials approved a 45% property tax abatement for the company in its first year. And when the company has 500 workers, it will get a 75% abatement for 10 years.

“It’s a true victory for the people of Texas and the United States,” Trump said, adding that he formally was welcoming Louis Vuitton “to the great state of Texas.”

North Texas visit

Trump is among the presidential candidates working to ramp up support in North Texas ahead of next year’s election.

The president started his Texas trip in Fort Worth, landing at the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base and then heading to a fundraiser at the City Club where tickets ranged from $5,600 to $250,000 per couple.

He then took a helicopter to Johnson County for the Louis Vuitton event, before heading to Dallas for a 7 p.m. campaign rally.

When he began his speech, he mentioned that Turkey had agreed to at least a temporary ceasefire in Syria.

“We’ve had at tremendous day in the Middle East,” he said “We were a little bit unconventional.

“ISIS is totally under control,” Trump said, thanking Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for helping with negotiations. “Millions and millions of people could have been killed and we were able to do something.”

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Anna M. Tinsley grew up in a journalism family and has been a reporter for the Star-Telegram since 2001. She has covered the Texas Legislature and politics for more than two decades and has won multiple awards for political reporting, most recently a third place from APME for deadline writing. She is a Baylor University graduate.