CEO of GE wants to be where "the innovators are"

February 12, 2013

The decision of General Electric to start bringing jobs and production back to the U.S. was one of the success stories for the manufacturing industry in 2012 and, in the opinion of its CEO, domestic innovation and lean enterprise will ensure the future remains bright.

According to Business Insider, Jeffrey Immelt, believes that U.S. manufacturing is on the rise and American innovators are the reason why. Speaking at a conference in Washington, D.C., the high-profile head of GE was bullish in his attitude to the global marketplace, with research and development top of his agenda.

Despite GE having a long record of manufacturing products in overseas locations, Immelt now wants to reposition the firm in the domestic market, citing the cost of materials and the “great workers” as reasons why he has become a fan of onshoring. His remarks came at a time when U.S. manufacturers are still enjoying a period of relative prosperity in the industry, with steady, if not spectacular, growth anticipated to continue through the next six months at least.

“The extent to which we’ve brought back outsourced production,” said Immelt , “it’s mainly because we thought we could make it with higher margins in the United States.”

And the CEO of GE is certainly not alone in his views. Andrew Liveris, the CEO of Dow Chemical, intimated as much when he addressed a recent manufacturing conference in North Carolina. Like Immelt, he was full of praise for the way that the industry has dealt with the threat coming from the Asia-Pacific region, crediting the “transformative power” of the sector and recognizing the contribution made by the energy industry.

“When natural gas is not exported or burned for energy but instead used as an ingredient in manufacturing processes, it creates eight times more value across the economy and five times the number of jobs in the supply chain,” said Liveris.

This new enthusiasm for domestic production and innovation by global companies is one reason why manufacturers are confident that the revival will continue, a quiet optimism borne out of a commitment to quality management in manufacturing. According to Industry Week, U.S. manufacturing is facing an “encouraging future,” with over $96 billion invested in high-tech sectors such as medicine and aerospace in the last year alone, while U.S. companies have added over 500,000 workers to domestic production facilities since 2010.

“When I look at what 90 percent of what GE makes, I want it to be made where the innovators are,” stated Immelt, an attitude that can only bode well for U.S. manufacturing as a whole.