Carrier Corp. blamed fed rules, but claim’s tough to measure

INDIANAPOLIS — When Indiana Gov. Mike Pence first tried to keep Carrier Corp. in Indianapolis, the company told him federal regulations had made it impossible to stay.

Pence met with officials from Carrier’s parent company, United Technologies Corp., in March after it announced plans to close factories in Indianapolis and Huntington and move a combined 2,100 jobs to Mexico. Pence asked what Indiana could do to retain the jobs. Company executives dismissed the question.

“They said don’t even bother,” Pence, now vice president-elect, said during a recent appearance on ABC’s This Week. “They said we — the avalanche of regulations coming out of Washington, D.C., the taxation, it just — they said we can’t make it happen.”

Carrier union leader: Fight about jobs, not Trump

A lot has changed since March. Donald Trump became president-elect in November, with Pence as his running mate, and the incoming administration quickly reached an agreement with Carrier to save up to 800 jobs. United Technologies officials say Trump’s pledge to cut through the Obama administration’s red tape gave them confidence to keep building furnaces in Indianapolis.

That assertion, promoted by Trump and Pence, raises questions about how many federal rules are affecting manufacturers such as Carrier and how great of a burden they pose. There are no simple answers.

Experts say regulations do impose billions of dollars of costs on heating and cooling manufacturers — but not necessarily enough financial hardship to cause those companies to shut down plants.

Carrier declined to comment on regulations. Trump, citing numbers often used by Carrier, offered at least a partial explanation during his Dec. 1 visit to celebrate the Carrier deal.