Business Roundtable hires new president

The post-election game of musical chairs in the world of Washington advocacy continued Tuesday at one of the leading business groups. 

John Engler, the president and chief executive officer of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), will be moving over to the Business Roundtable (BRT) as its president in 2011, the group announced Tuesday.

"I am very excited in January to be moving over the BRT," Engler said. "This is an important moment for American business and I think the BRT is excited about the opportunity to play a role in 2011 on America’s economic competitiveness agenda."

Engler, a Republican who served three terms as Michigan governor, will join the Roundtable on Jan. 15 after nearly seven years at the helm of NAM.

He will succeed John J. Castellani, who left the roundtable in September to become president and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. 

The manufacturers association has not named Engler's replacement, but a source at the group said an announcement is imminent.  

The shakeup comes as business groups and the Obama administration search for common ground on issues such as trade and taxes. 

Ivan Seidenberg, chairman of the Roundtable and CEO of Verizon Communications, made headlines over the summer when he took on the White House for injecting “uncertainty” into the economy. 

But Seidenberg praised Obama in a recent speech, calling the president’s actions on taxes and the South Korean trade agreement “extraordinary.” NAM also applauded the president for the tax cut deal, despite earlier criticisms of other policy objectives like cap-and-trade.

Engler signaled a willingness to work with the White House on Tuesday, calling himself a “bipartisan leader” despite his ties to the Republican Party.

"I haven't been a Republican governor for eight years," Engler said.

In a statement, Seidenberg said the Roundtable is “thrilled” to have Engler coming on board. 

"He has championed U.S. competitiveness around the world — often working arm-in-arm with the Business Roundtable — and has tirelessly advocated policies that create jobs in the U.S. Respected in Washington on both sides of the aisle," Seidenberg said in a statement. 

Engler said the Roundtable’s top priority moving forward be driving job creation. He said the BRT will focus on the implementation of healthcare reform to ensure it remains affordable for employers to provide it, called for the government to provide certainty to businesses in drafting rules and regulations and said the education system needs provide better workforce training.

"All those different streams of investment being unleashed is how you get a recovery going," he said.

The switch from NAM happened fairly rapidly, according to Engler. He was considering extending his contract heading for another five years when he heard from the BRT.

"I didn't really start December thinking I would end December making this announcement," he said.

Engler said leaving NAM is "very bittersweet," but he said he’s proud of the legacy he’s leaving behind.

"We're stronger, healthier, and more vigorous today," Engler said.

This story was updated at 12:00 p.m.