The numbers tell the story. Some 95 percent the world’s population lives outside the United States. The rapidly growing emerging markets will account for half of the world’s GDP within the next three years. In 2011, 60 percent of GE’s sales were outside the U.S, representing a three-fold increase in exports over the last 10 years. In order to compete, GE must grow both in the U.S. and globally, says John Rice, GE vice chairman and president and CEO of global growth operations. It’s the only way.
Rice was speaking before GE’s American Competitiveness: What Works forum, which will take place next week in Washington, D.C. “There is a big confusion out there and that confusion is that people think that job creation is a zero-sum game,” he said. “That’s not really the way it works. The fact is that when you’re doing the right thing and you’re creating economic value that is sustainable, you create jobs in multiple places.”
Rice said that there were thousands of jobs in Greenville, South Carolina (gas turbines), Erie, Pennsylvania (locomotives), and Evendale, Ohio (jet engines) that only exist because of GE’s ability to compete on a global basis. “The engines that we put on Airbus or Boeing aircraft that fly out of China or Indonesia or Brazil create jobs ” in the U.S., Rice said.
Rice stressed the importance of competing on a level playing field. “We have thousands of jobs in the United States that only exist because of the economic value we’re creating in China,” he said. “If you build walls, create tariffs, have protectionist policies, those jobs are going to go away. We can’t let that happen.”
In 2011, GE said that it would open more than 8,000 new American jobs, bringing the total over 13,000 jobs since 2009. The company will also build 16 new factories, including a locomotive plant in Texas – first such new facility in the United States in decades.
What is the alternative? There isn’t any. “If we don’t compete, we lose – as do our employees, our investors and our customers,” Rice said.