As climate change storms to the forefront of public consciousness, the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) has tapped a Washington insider and former Bush Administration executive to lead the steel association through a time of change.
They chose Thomas J. Gibson, a man with a passion for manufacturing who intentionally took a career path toward the steel sector. "I admire AISI's work in the steel industry," he said. "AISI tells a remarkable story."
"No one has spent as much time on climate change as Tom. He brings years of experience in this realm to the steel sector," said Jack N. Gerard, president and chief executive officer of the American Chemistry Council (ACC), a Washington-based trade association where Gibson was senior vice president of advocacy. "Tom understands the issues here in Washington," he added. "He knows what he is talking about, which is the key to be successful in D.C."
"Our industry faces many important environmental and technical challenges, and he has the credentials and experience to help us meet them," said John P. Surma, chairman and chief executive officer of U.S. Steel Corp., Pittsburgh, and a member of AISI's board of directors. "I look forward to working with him to keep steel the material of choice."
Gibson takes the reins at AISI on Sept. 1. His salary remains undisclosed. The man he succeeds, president and chief executive officer Andrew G. Sharkey III, earned $786,696 in 2006, according to the National Journal magazine (AMM, May 2).
The first thing Gibson will do as head of AISI is pack his bags and depart Washington. He plans to visit AISI members across the country, get a feel for how the steel industry operates and its key business priorities, then put that knowledge to work when he returns to Washington.
"The steel industry is a smaller universe than it used to be," Gibson said. "Still, I am thrilled to be here. I have a lot of respect for the steel industry."
Gibson has earned the respect of colleagues in Washington as he carved out his career niche by working well with both Democrats and Republicans and establishing a strong track record on Capitol Hill by achieving legislative objectives with various associations.
During his tenure at ACC, Gibson led the chemical industry's global, federal and state advocacy efforts, while with the Portland Cement Association he was involved with industry efforts on climate change and advocated for the cement industry's inclusion in the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate.
Gibson, who received a bachelor's degree in naval architecture from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1979, a master's in marine affairs from the University of Rhode Island in 1989 and graduated from the Georgetown University Law Center in 1994, also served as chief of staff for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), acting as its day-to-day manager to EPA administrators Christine Todd Whitman and Michael O. Leavitt. Earlier, after serving in the U.S. Navy, Gibson was an engineer and program manager with Raytheon Co. before joining Don Clay & Associates, an environmental policy firm in Washington.
"Tom has had a very successful career with associations in Washington, and his experience with the EPA is invaluable," said Keith E. Busse, AISI chairman and chairman and chief executive officer of Steel Dynamics Inc., Fort Wayne, Ind. "I believe Tom is ready. He is up for the challenge."
Busse added that Gibson's extensive contacts on Capitol Hill will help him tackle the challenges and changes that will be taking place in Washington in the coming months.
The AISI cast a wide net in searching for potential candidates earlier this year (AMM, April 11). Ward J. "Tim" Timken Jr., chairman of Timken Co., Canton, Ohio, was asked by Sharkey to head up the search committee, and looked at a number of candidates from a broad cross-section of industries outside the steel industry—from government and lobbyists to executives in the business sector.
Timken said that Gibson rose to the top of all the candidates. "From a policy point of view, his background is suited to the challenges that face the steel industry," he said. "Tom's expertise on climate change will be invaluable."
"Tom is a strong leader, and a good communicator," Daniel R. DiMicco, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Nucor Corp., Charlotte, N.C., said. "He does have big shoes to fill, as Sharkey will be missed."
Sharkey has left his mark on the steel industry, Timken said, but now it's time for the next executive to take on the challenges that lie ahead. "Tom's career prepared him to become an executive. Now it's time for Tom to take AISI to the next level," Timken said.
"In the past, the AISI CEOs had direct connections to the steel industry," David Phelps, president of the American Institute for International Steel, Washington, said. "This appointment is a departure from the norm. I'm hoping that Gibson will focus on environmental issues, and that the AISI will change its posture on the International Trade Commission and the Department of Commerce."