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General Electric CEO To Head New Economic Panel


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.


NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY: As he toured the GE plant in Schenectady, New York, today, Mr. Obama saw signs workers had put up showing where the gas turbines they were building would eventually go. The company ships turbines took Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. And under a new contract, GE's sending three-quarters of a billion dollars worth of generators to Samalkot, India.

BARACK OBAMA: Most of you hadn't heard of Samalkot.


OBAMA: But now you need to know about it because you're going to be selling to Samalkot, India. And that new business halfway around the world is going to help support more than 1,200 manufacturing jobs and more than 400 engineering jobs right here in this community because of that sale.


HORSLEY: Hoping that other companies might learn from GE's success, Mr. Obama named the company's chief executive officer, Jeffrey Immelt, to lead a new president's council on jobs and competitiveness. The panel replaces an earlier advisory board led by former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker. In making the switch, Mr. Obama signaled that while the U.S. economy has begun to recover, it's still not adding jobs fast enough to replace the millions that were lost during the deep recession.

OBAMA: The past two years were about pulling our economy back from the brink. The next two years, our job now is putting our economy into overdrive.

HORSLEY: It's doubtful Congress will approve any more big spending measures by the government. So the president is asking the advisory board to focus on ways to encourage hiring an investment by the private sector. Many U.S. companies have been sitting on cash instead of hanging out the help wanted sign.

SIEGEL: The jobs panel will explore opportunities to boost manufacturing and exports. As he told workers in Schenectady, those are both areas Immelt knows something about.

JEFFREY IMMELT: We're a big exporter. Ninety percent of all the products made in this facility are exported outside the United States. So it's really a great example, I think, of what we want to do to really renew this country and this company.

HORSLEY: The White House notes that GE has created new manufacturing jobs in the U.S., even as the company also invests in plants overseas. The company reinvests about six percent of its revenues in research and development. President Obama says that commitment to innovation is crucial to the economy's long-term success.

OBAMA: We're going back to Thomas Edison's principles. We're going to build stuff and invent stuff.

HORSLEY: Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.