Rob Portman grew up in an Ohio small business family, where he learned early on the value of hard work, leadership, and fiscal responsibility.
When Rob was young, his dad, Bill Portman, borrowed money to start Portman Equipment Company, where Rob and his brother and sister all worked growing up. His father, and then his brother, built the family business from a small forklift truck dealership with five employees and Rob’s mom as bookkeeper, to one that employed more than 300 people. Rob became a lawyer and developed his own private practice, representing Portman Equipment Company and other small businesses. He knows firsthand the challenges small businesses face.
Rob was born in Cincinnati where he lives today with his wife Jane, and their three children, Jed, Will and Sally.
Until recently, Rob practiced law with the Cleveland, Ohio-based firm of Squire, Sanders, & Dempsey and is engaged in various community activities, including serving on the board of The Coalition for a Drug Free Greater Cincinnati, a group he founded. He also serves on the Advisory Board of The Ohio State University’s John Glenn School of Public Affairs, where he has co-taught four public policy courses. He is also Chairman of Ohio’s Future PAC, an organization devoted to developing creative solutions to Ohio’s economic challenges and supporting policies that create more jobs and opportunities for Ohioans.
Rob is also a small business owner of the oldest continuously operating business in Ohio, the historic Golden Lamb Inn in Lebanon, Ohio. Rob has been actively involved in the restoration of the hotel and restaurant, which he owns with his brother and sister. Several years ago, he co-authored a book highlighting Ohio’s and the Golden Lamb’s Shaker history, called Wisdom’s Paradise.
Rob traces his interest in public service to an internship with his Cincinnati-area Congressman during college. After college and law school, Rob practiced international trade law in Washington, DC and business law in Cincinnati. He left Cincinnati for two years to serve as White House Associate Counsel and Director of the Office of Legislative Affairs in the first Bush Administration, before returning home to become a partner in his law firm.
In 1993, Rob was elected to Congress, where he represented the diverse seven county Second District. He was proud to serve the Second District for twelve years, and in seven elections, he never received less than seventy percent of the vote. During his time representing the Second District, Rob earned a reputation as a serious leader who focused on results. Rob was actively involved in the successful welfare reform efforts as a member of the committee that wrote the legislation, and he was a strong supporter of the balanced budget that passed in 1997.
Rob gained the respect of both Republican and Democratic colleagues through his successful bipartisan legislative initiatives, including measures he authored to increase retirement savings, reform the IRS and add over fifty new taxpayer rights, curb unfunded mandates, reduce taxes, and expand drug prevention and land conservation efforts.
In 2005, Rob left Congress when he was asked to serve as U.S. Trade Representative, the Cabinet-level official responsible for implementing and enforcing trade policy. In his one year in the job, Rob was successful in reducing barriers to U.S. exports and increasing enforcement of trade laws to help level the playing field for American farmers, workers and service providers. Under his leadership, American exports increased and the U.S. brought its first successful legal case against China.
Following his accomplishments as Trade Representative, Rob was asked to serve for a year as Director of the Office of Management and Budget, another Cabinet-level post. A budget hawk, Rob made his mark by proposing a balanced budget, fighting irresponsible earmarks, and putting in place new transparency for all federal spending. The deficit was cut in half during his tenure to about one tenth the size of this year’s deficit. In June of 2007, Rob left government and came home full time.
So that their children would be raised with the same Ohio values that Rob treasured from his youth, Rob and his wife, Jane, kept their home in Ohio and Rob commuted to Washington for over 14 years during his time in Congress and in the Cabinet.
Rob is an avid outdoorsman and a lifelong hunter and fisherman. He has coached his daughter’s soccer teams for four seasons. He has also been a consistent participant in two races in the Cincinnati area that raise funds for nonprofit causes. One is an annual 62-mile charity bicycle race that benefits Parkinson’s research and the other is Paddlefest, an annual canoe/kayak float on the Ohio River. This year Rob and his son Will won their division in the Paddlefest canoe race.