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Alan Mulally
Former Ford CEO Alan Mulally visited Seattle University last year. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

Update for 8:30 p.m. PT Dec. 10: News outlets are reporting that Donald Trump is expected to nominate ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, and not Alan Mulally, as his secretary of state.

Original report from Dec. 8: Former Boeing and Ford executive Alan Mulally was on the schedule to sit down with Donald Trump today, setting off buzz that the president-elect may be considering the management guru as his pick for secretary of state.

Fox News quoted unnamed sources as saying that Trump was expected to discuss the secretary of state scenario with Mulally during a meeting at Trump Tower in New York.

Transition spokesman Jason Miller deflected questions about the issue during a teleconference with reporters, saying only that Trump has been meeting with a wide variety of people to discuss policy as well as potential posts in the incoming administration.

“Mr. Mulally is certainly someone who knows a lot about trade issues, the economy and what we do to get our manufacturing sector going again,” Miller said.

That sounds more like a job for a commerce secretary, but billionaire investor Wilbur Ross has already been chosen for that role.

The 71-year-old Mulally has cut a wide swath in the manufacturing sector: He rose through the ranks at the Boeing Co. and eventually became president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. Because of Boeing’s status as the largest U.S. exporter, that position is considered one of the top “diplomatic” posts in American industry – so maybe it’s not such a stretch to imagine Mulally as secretary of state.

Mulally left Boeing in 2006 to become CEO at Ford. That’s where he made his mark during the auto industry crisis, when Ford was the only one of Detroit’s Big Three automakers that passed on getting a bailout (although it took out a $5.9 billion government loan).

In 2014, Mulally resigned at Ford and joined Google’s board of directors. This year he became a senior fellow at Seattle University’s Albers School of Business.

Mulally bemoaned the state of American manufacturing during a Seattle University lecture last year.

“The facts say that no country has been sustainable if you don’t have a really strong manufacturing base,” he said. “I see a change in that. I haven’t heard enough from the candidates who are running for office. They need to be saying more about that, and the economy.”

Since then, Trump has been saying a lot about making American manufacturing great again and boosting jobs. But it’s not clear whether that would be a big part of the future secretary of state’s portfolio.

Trump says he expects to announce his choice for secretary of state next week. Right now, that key job seems to be something of a hot potato.

Among other names being mentioned are 2012’s GOP presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, who was a sharp critic of Trump during the campaign; former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a staunch Trump supporter; former Army general and CIA director David Petraeus; Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman; former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton; ExxonMobile CEO Rex Tillerson; and U.S. Rep Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif.

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