Today President Barack Obama named GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt as chair of his outside panel of economic advisors: the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. Having been an original member of the newly renamed panel since 2009, Immelt’s new role is part of a long history of public service among GE’s leaders (our historical look at GE’s past CEOs provides more details).
In an op-ed published today in The Washington Post entitled “A Blueprint for Keeping America Competitive,” Immelt writes: “Business leaders should provide expertise in service of our country. My predecessors at GE have done so, as have leaders of many other great American companies. There is always a healthy tension between the public and private sectors. However, we all share a responsibility to drive national competitiveness, particularly during economic unrest. This is one of those times. My hope is that the council will be a sounding board for ideas and a catalyst for action on jobs and competitiveness.”
On the critical focus areas, he writes: “We need a coordinated commitment among business, labor and government to expand our manufacturing base and increase exports. The assumption made by many that the United States could transition from a technology-based, export-oriented economic powerhouse to a services-led, consumption-based economy without any serious loss of jobs, prosperity or prestige was fundamentally wrong. But there is nothing inevitable about America’s declining manufacturing competitiveness if we work together to reverse it. For example, we have returned many GE appliance manufacturing jobs to the States by collaborating with our unions and making our operations more efficient.”
“Working with Boeing CEO Jim McNerney, who leads the President’s Export Council, the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness will look for ways to harness the power of international markets — home to more than 95 percent of the world’s consumers. Currently, the United States ranks lowest among the world’s largest manufacturing nations in the ratio of domestically produced goods sold overseas, or export intensity. We must set as our highest economic priority not just increasing our exports, as the president has pledged, but also making the United States the world’s leading exporter in the 21st century.”
Free trade is also key, as the U.S. cannot “expand its manufacturing base without greatly increasing the volume of goods it sells overseas,” he says. And at the heart of all of those efforts will be the need for innovation. “Businesses should invest more of their cash and resources in advanced products and technologies that will create jobs in the United States, and government should incentivize this investment in innovation,” he writes. GE, he notes, is investing more than ever in research and development, committing a 6 percent of revenue — and producing more products in the U.S, with about 6,000 manufacturing jobs created in the U.S. over the last two years.
He concludes: “It is possible to be a competitive global enterprise and still care about your home. In fact, it is not just possible but imperative. There is no easy solution to “fix” the American economy. Persistent and high unemployment — and the pessimism it breeds — should not be accepted. We must work together to construct an economy that creates more opportunity for more people.”
* Read coverage on Bloomberg News
Learn more in these GE Reports stories:
* “GE Goes With What It Knows: Making Stuff”
* “GE’s New Plant Investments Now Top $1B; Create Over 1,300 Jobs”
* “In 1 Day: $128M for Manufacturing; 630 Jobs Created or Retained”
* “Re-inventing factories: The Kaizen/‘moonshine’ method”
* “American Renewal: Immelt addresses Detroit Econ Club”