Solution Providers Cheer Trump Tech Summit, Hoping It Will Help Channel Partners Create More Jobs

Solution providers praised Donald Trump's meeting Wednesday with tech leaders and urged the President-elect to champion policies that will help small businesses create more jobs.

"I applaud the hell out of Trump for being bold enough to say that we need to keep jobs in America and stop outsourcing jobs to other countries," said Bob Venero, CEO of Holbrook, N.Y.-based solution provider Future Tech, No. 167 on the CRN Solution Provider 500.

The technology leaders expected to visit Trump Tower include Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, Intel CEO Brian Kraznich, Oracle CEO Safra Catz, Alphabet CEO Larry Page, Apple CEO Tim Cook, and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.

[RELATED: IBM CEO Rometty Pledges 25,000 Hires In Four Years On The Eve Of Trump Meeting]

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Silicon Valley was very chilly to Trump during the campaign, with more than 140 technology executives, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists skewering the real estate mogul and TV personality in a July open letter as a "disaster for innovation." Solution providers hope the IT industry's top vendors can turn over a new leaf.

"How do they actually get behind him as opposed to continuing the attacks on his viability as a president?" said Kevin McDonald, executive vice president and chief information security officer at Irvine, Calif.-based Alvaka Networks. "I just hope they can put their petty differences aside and get real about doing what's right for the country."

Pat Grillo, president and CEO of Branchburg, N.J.-based Atrion Communication Resources, is pleased by Trump's willingness to break bread with executives that sharply disagreed with him during the campaign cycle.

"In his real life, Trump's a little bit more open to other ideas and seeing what works and what doesn't work," Grillo said. "The more people that have his ear and can make good suggestions – especially successful businesspeople – the better off we're going to be."

McDonald agreed that the meeting is a positive first step in aligning the interests of the IT industry with the incoming administration.

"Tech executives are realists," he said. "Whether they like his personal social politics or views, the truth is that they're about stockholder value and growing their companies."

One expected area of discord is the H-1B skilled worker visa program, which Trump characterized as a "cheap labor program" in March but many industry leaders say helps address shortages of U.S. citizens and residents in specialized technical fields.

But Augie Riolo, president of Virginia Beach, Virg. -based Knowledge Information Systems (KIS), is optimistic that the Trump administration won't hinder the ability of IT firms to get engineers from around the world.

"I think they [the tech leaders] will be comfortable and get what they want out of that meeting," Riolo said. "This president is going to embrace the bright ideas that they have."

McDonald had long been a supporter of the H-1B program, but reports of companies such as Walt Disney World and Southern California Edison using the program to replace American workers with foreigners on temporary visas have greatly tempered his enthusiasm. Both Disney and Southern California Edison have denied the allegations.

"I'm not okay with foreigners displacing American workers, particularly when they're forced to train their replacements [which was alleged in the Disney case]," McDonald said.

Venero of Future Tech, who voted for Trump, urged the President-elect not to discount the power of IT solution providers of creating jobs in America.

"The number of jobs that the channel is creating dwarfs the number of jobs from the large tech corporations," Venero said. "The President-elect needs to make sure he embraces the power of the technology services channel to drive additional employment in the U.S."

Future Tech has been driving jobs for U.S. military veterans for nearly a decade through its InSource America Veteran Series subsidiary. InSource provides technology services training and employment for veterans, Venero said, placing hundreds of veterans in jobs throughout the country since its founding nearly a decade ago.

Grillo of Atrion hopes the Trump administration will set aside for money for small businesses to hire and retrain people who've been out of work for a while in high-demand fields. The administration should force business to put together a detailed plan, Grillo said, track how effective they've been at putting the unemployed back to work, and allocate future funding accordingly.

"They should be incentivizing small business to hire and train people rather than giving them unemployment and welfare," Grillo said. "If you leave more money for business, they'll hire more people and reinvest in America."

Riolo of KIS said he's pleased by Trump's appointment of professional wrestling magnate Linda McMahon to lead the Small Business Administration (SBA), saying she has the outsider perspective and business chops needed to "break some dishes."

Riolo hopes that McMahon and the Trump administration will address the contractual difficulties small businesses face when they are attempting to work with larger business, particularly in the public sector space

"We always feel like we're looking up to the mid-level and large government integrators for business," Riolo said. "The issue for us is 'how do they level that playing field?'"

Trump and the tech leaders are also expected to discuss repatriation, or the bringing back of cash held overseas by tech companies overseas. The companies want to return the America at a beneficial tax rate, and Trump has appeared favorably disposed to letting them do so.

If such a deal is made, McDonald of Alvaka would like to see half of the tax on the repatriated cash set aside for research and development initiatives focused on creating jobs in America.

He would also like to see the Trump administration roll back overreaching environmental controls, aggressive classification of what constitutes full-time employment and the extreme penalties faced by small businesses that suffer a data breach. Taken together, McDonald said these regulations scare small businesses off from taking risks needed to grow their operations.

"I believe this meeting is a positive sign," McDonald said. "I believe the tech industry will be like 'let's just get on the train and go.'"

Steve Burke contributed to this story