GE’s Immelt to lead president’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness
Amidst snow and media storms, President Barack Obama spoke at General Electric in Schenectady on the importance of green energy technology and the United States competing in the global marketplace. General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt was also appointed by Obama to lead the new national Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.
I just had a chance to see some of the high-tech steam turbines and all kinds of fancy stuff that is being made here, said Obama. `It is unbelievably impressive and it is part of a proud tradition, because GE has been producing turbines and generators here in Schenectady for more than a century.`
Obama noted a lot has changed over 100 years, with technology transforming methods of communication and increasing global competition transforming the country’s economy. Upstate New York has also seen its fair share of hard times. Although, he said America is still home to the most creative businesses and productive workers in the world.
Before Obama delivered his speech, he took a quick tour of the plant seeing machines such as a nuclear monoblock and a D11 steam turbine. The Schenectady facility is also where GE Energy’s Power and Water division is located, which manufactures generators, wind turbines, solar technology and steam turbines. The planned advanced battery manufacturing plant will add another element to the plant in the future. Currently, there are around 4,000 employees at the Schenectady facility.
Obama said he wants there to be facilities like GE across the country to drive innovation and strengthen the economy.
`Our challenge is to do everything we can to make it easier for folks to bring products to market and to start and expand new businesses, and to grow and hire new workers,` said Obama. `I want plants like this all across America. You guys are a model of what’s possible.`
Earlier, Immelt also shared his belief that GE is one of the leading businesses in the country.
`I like to think that this is where capitalism and where innovation really was born, with Thomas Edison right here in Schenectady,` said Immelt in his opening remarks. `This business was one of the few businesses in the world, Mr. President, that had positive earnings every year during the crisis. We did it because we are a big exporter, we’re a high tech company and that is pretty much the story.`
Even with the local success GE has experienced, Immelt noted 60 percent of the company’s revenue comes from out of the country. He said he has a responsibility to make sure this country is the most competitive and productive nation in the world.
`We’re a big exporter, 90 percent of all the product that are made in this facility are exported out of the United States, so it is really a great example I think of what we want to do to renew this country and this company. We know at GE that the future is given to no one; we have to compete and we have to win and I know that this team can compete with anybody in the world.`
By extending a federal program to make green energy choices easier, Obama said GE has seen $6 billion through investments from customers, which have spun up the demand from wind turbines.
`In an ever-shrinking world, our success in these efforts will be determined not only by what we build in Schenectady, but also what we can sell in Shanghai. For America to compete around the world, we need to export more goods around the world,` said Obama.
While walking through the plant, said Obama, he saw signs next to the various items and all of them had a foreign country listed for where it is being sold and shipped. He said that is exactly why he recently met with China’s leaders to open up trade agreements, which he said will result in $45 billion in new business for American companies.
`We want to open up their markets so that we got two-way trade, not just one-way trade,` said Obama. `I’ve set a goal of doubling American exports within five years and we’re on track to do it.`
Obama said the last two years the country has been trying to escape a recession, but the next two years are about putting the country’s economy back into `overdrive.`
When Obama took office two years ago he assembled a team of business leaders, including Immelt, to help him and the country overcome a dwindling economy. Now Immelt will once again be at Obama’s side as he tries to reignite the economy.
`Jeff is somebody who brings a wealth of experience to the table. He is one of the nation’s most respected and admired business leaders, and that’s a reputation he earned over 10 years at the helm of this company,` said Obama. `I know this council will be an important asset as we seek to do everything we can to spur hiring and ensure our nation can compete with anybody on the planet. That means spurring innovation in growing industries like clean energy manufacturing, the kind of stuff that’s being done right here at this plant; ensuring our economy isn’t held back by crumbling roads and broken-down infrastructure.`
Immelt said he was honored to lead Obama’s council and he is confident the country will be able to overcome its troubles.
City of Schenectady Mayor Brian Stratton had flown back with Obama in Air Force One, because he had been attending a conference for Mayors in Washington, D.C. and Obama had joked Stratton had `looked like he was having a pretty good time.`