GE CEO cites need for manufacturing, innovation, exporting

March 17, 2011
By: Kate Bachman

GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt, the newly appointed chairman of President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, outlined his vision for making the U.S. more competitive in the global marketplace in a March 8 speech to The Executive Club of Chicago, contributing writer John Kerastas reported.

It was good to hear that at the onset, Mr. Immelt asserted, “We’ve got to have an economy that’s balanced. It is not our destiny to be just a service economy. We have to have both a service industry and a strong manufacturing industry. It is not natural for a powerful and successful economy to have a trillion dollar trade deficit. We’ve got to export more; we’ve got to innovate more; we’ve got to manufacture more.”

Regarding his role on the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, he noted that the council has just started. “But I can give you a few of the big themes that I think are going to be important in a more competitive America:

“We need some real solutions for energy security and affordable healthcare. These are two pillars of infrastructure that can ensure long-term competitiveness. We need to open more energy supply, accelerate our investment in renewable, drive technology like nuclear power, and leverage our advantage in natural gas.”

Immelt emphasized the need to improve the U.S.’ financial strength while also investing in the future. In addition, he stipulated, “Government is going to have to reduce spending and deficits. But at the same time, there’s a way to create jobs through smart investing, R&D, infrastructure, and education.”

“We have to be a leader in technology, R&D, and innovation.” He further observed, “To compete successfully, we need more engineers and scientists. While our universities are the best in the world, more people are graduating from them with degrees in sports therapy than with degrees in electrical engineering. To remedy that, we’ve got to start encouraging students’ interest in math and science.”

Immelt asserted that the U.S. has to aim for investing in a global market. “Now—we need to win in a new economic cycle and one where growth is happening at multiple speeds. In this decade, 80 percent of the net economic growth is going to happen in developing markets, like Brazil and India, while much of the developed world is dealing with sluggish economies and fiscal constraints.”

By way of example, he noted, “Ninety-six percent of Boeing’s employees live in the United States; 80 percent of their aircraft backlog is from markets outside the United States.”

In closing, Immelt commented, “Government should encourage businesses that seek to revitalize its manufacturing competitiveness with incentives for investing in R&D. We should open new markets for our products and services. We should open this market to foreign direct investment. And we should really consider changing tax policies that encourage businesses to invest our overseas earnings back in the U.S.”
Kate Bachman

Kate Bachman

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