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GE's Immelt to Head Obama's New 'Jobs and Competitiveness' Board GE's Immelt to Head Obama's New 'Jobs and Competitiveness' Board GE's Immelt to Head Obama's New 'Jobs and Competitiveness' Board GE's Immelt to Head Obama...

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White House / WHITE HOUSE

GE's Immelt to Head Obama's New 'Jobs and Competitiveness' Board

President Obama talks with Jeffrey Immelt, chairman and CEO of General Electric, during the first quarterly meetings of the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on May 20, 2009.(AFP/Getty Images)

photo of Marc Ambinder
January 21, 2011

Immelt Lays Out Priorities

Updated at 10:25 a.m. on January 21.

He may be joining the public sector to head up the newly formed Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, but General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt says he will be greatly influenced by his time in the private sector.

“There is always a healthy tension between the public and private sectors,” he wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post this morning. “However, we all share a responsibility to drive national competitiveness, particularly during economic unrest. This is one of those times.”

In the op-ed, Immelt laid out what will be his three main areas of focus: manufacturing and exports (“we have returned many GE appliance manufacturing jobs to the States by collaborating with our unions and making our operations more efficient”), free trade (“America cannot expand its manufacturing base without greatly increasing the volume of goods it sells overseas”), and 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”).

Finally, Immelt says that making the country a more global place can be thought of as an act of patriotism.

“It is possible to be a competitive global enterprise and still care about your home,” he wrote.

CORRECTION: The original version of this report gave an incorrect description of Jeffrey Immelt's status at General Electric. He is staying on as CEO in addition to his new duties.

Updated at 7:47 a.m. on January 21.

President Obama today will name General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt chairman of the new Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, the White House announced overnight.

The Jobs and Competitiveness Council's establishment signals that the president believes the economic recovery has entered a new, more productive phase. It will advise the president on job creation policies and on the establishment of a long-term growth strategy. Its composition was not immediately available.


The creation of the new entity coincides with the early February dissolution of the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board (PERAB), which was tasked principally with fixing the financial markets and restoring the American economy to equilibrium. Tonight, the administration formally announced the resignation of PERAB Chairman Paul Volcker. Immelt was one of 17 members of the board.

"Because we still have a long way to go to get Americans back to work and strengthen our economy," the White House announced in a 12:30 am EST statement, "the council will focus on finding new ways to promote growth by investing in American business to encourage hiring, to educate and train our workers to compete globally, and to attract the best jobs and businesses to the United States."

"Over the past two years, my Economic Recovery Advisory Board has provided this administration with support and expertise as we worked to bring our economy back from the brink and start recovering from an economic crisis that cost millions of American jobs," Obama is quoted as saying in the statement. "We still have a long way to go, and my number one priority is to ensure we are doing everything we can to get the American people back to work. As we enter a new phase in our recovery, I have asked the new Council to focus its work on finding new ways to encourage the private sector to hire and invest in American competitiveness."

Immelt, GE's CEO since September 2001, met with the president earlier this week and attended Wednesday's state dinner with Chinese President Hu Jintao. He will guide the president on a tour of GE headquarters in Schenectady, N.Y., today. Immelt, a Republican, donated to both Hillary Rodham Clinton and John McCain during the last presidential cycle, but not President Obama, according to Bloomberg.

In the statement, Obama thanks Volcker, a revered former Federal Reserve Board chairman, and says that he intends to call on Volcker's counsel in the future. The White House and Volcker have said that Volcker's decision to step down was his own, although the emphasis on the board's sunset date suggests that the decision was driven by the White House's intention not to extend the PERAB's mandate. Obama has accepted some of Volcker's suggestions, like a major restriction on how banks can speculate with their money.

During his State of the Union address Tuesday, Obama is expected to outline a competitiveness agenda and specify the steps needed to fulfill several promises about the pace and quality of job creation.

CORRECTION: The original version of this report misspelled the name of Chinese President Hu Jintao.

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