Scheurich, a Trump supporter, said he couldn’t believe the president intended to hurt his business, but the process for getting an exclusion nonetheless seemed overwhelming. He would have to fill in 84 different forms, one for each product he imported, with various law firms offering to assist at a price of $3,500 to $5,000 per form, which he couldn’t afford. After completing the forms himself, he received only a handful of exemptions.
“Maybe the ends justify the means,” Scheurich said. “I don’t know. If only I could get in front of the president, I could change his mind. Businessman to businessman. I would hope that a light would come on.” He paused. “Good lord,” he sighed.
The co-founder of Real Wood Floors, Sam Cobb’s father-in-law, Clyde Elbrecht, chuckled when I told him about the idea of appealing to Trump as a businessman. A lifelong Republican, Elbrecht didn’t think Trump was much of a businessman. Elbrecht, 73, had recently invested $3.5 million in a mill called Missouri Hardwood, he said, saving roughly 100 jobs in tiny Birch Tree, population 656, only to lose 25 percent of its business with customers in China because of the trade war. Likewise, a lumber yard that he had started developing in Arkansas, employing a dozen people, with many more to be hired as it expanded, had come to what he called a screeching stop.
“I was shipping a container of timber a day to China,” he said. “That’s around $20,000 per day, or $5.5 million annually, and I’ve stopped shipping entirely.”