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Press Conference With Jefferey Immelt, General Electric; Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm; And Senator Debbie Stabenow

Press Conference

Location: Birmingham, MI

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GOV. GRANHOLM: Welcome, everybody. Thank you all for coming today.

This is a fantastic day for Michigan. And perhaps the greatest symbol of that are all of these terrific young people who are going to be joining us, behind the talent of Michigan, who all will be looking for future jobs as part of what we are announcing today. So pleased to be here. And I want to single out a couple of people.

Jeff Immelt, who of course is the chairman and CEO of General Electric, is going to make a big announcement here. And so I'm not going to be able to do that. But I do know that there are an awful lot of people who have helped him make this announcement a reality. And I want to single out a couple of them.

Senator Debbie Stabenow was really a tremendous matchmaker in this effort. And we're so grateful to you for bringing us the chairman and CEO of General Electric and his team. And if she was the matchmaker, I know that we brought the dowry. (Laughter.)

And so I want to say thank you so much to our great Michigan Economic Development Corporation team. Greg Main is here and he's the president and CEO. We have such tremendous partners, our economic development crew, with our local partners, and we're also joined up here, and with our federal partners as well.

We're joined up here by Dr. Ed Montgomery, who is the head of the president's task force on automotive communities and recovery. The president has been extremely supportive of our strategy, to diversify Michigan's economy. And so we're so grateful that you are here as well.

The lieutenant governor, John Cherry, who has had a singular focus in his role as lieutenant governor. One of his important focuses has been on education, which is a critical component to having a high-tech facility. And so we're glad that he's joined us.

I want to acknowledge the Wayne County executive, Bob Ficano, because as you will hear, this facility will be located in Wayne County, in the actual band of the aerotropolis site.

So it is a tremendous, tremendous partnership that we have -- state, federal, local, and of course with our partner General Electric.

This is a great day because of our dogged focus on diversifying the economy. As I said to Mr. Immelt, we are -- I am, we are -- obsessed about reshaping Michigan's economy. And as General Electric focuses on imagination, we are focused on reimagining what Michigan is. We are proud of what we have been, and we know that our focus has been on adding new sectors to make us competitive in the 21st century. Technology, the green economy and making sure that we take advantage of our universities is part and parcel of what today's announcement will be.

So it is a real pleasure to be able to introduce the president and CEO of General Electric to make a tremendous, tremendous announcement for Michigan and its people.

MR. IMMELT: Great. Thank you, Governor. (Applause.) Thank you, Governor. Thank you. Good morning. Thank you, Governor and Senator. It's really an honor to be here with you this morning.

What I'd like to just do briefly is kind of describe what we're going to do, why we're doing it and why we think it's important.

What we're going to do is we're going to move and create an advanced manufacturing technology and software center in Michigan that's going to be located at Visteon Village office park.

We're going to assume some of the space there, and in addition we're going to invest a little bit more than $100 million to build a kind of a manufacturing lab on that site.

We think we'll start with about 1,200 people. Those people will be hired probably beginning the end of this year, and then as time goes on.

And basically we're going to put three work streams into this site. One will be kind of around the science of manufacturing high- tech products. We make jet engines. We make gas turbines. We make wind turbines. We make nuclear power plants. We make MR scanners. And the manufacturing that is a part of those high-tech products is very precise, and so we'll be putting both machinery capability and technologists to really develop the next generation of manufacturing technology that helps us be productive, have higher quality, and so that will go into this site.

In addition we will put software -- people in software tasks in this site -- smart grid technology, the software associated with that; health care information technology, some of the software associated with that; and then other applications inside the company. We view in our service business the need for more software, and so those capabilities will go into this site as well.

And then the third major work stream is, we're going to use this as a place to co-locate many of our information technology resources in one location. And so these three groups will be located in this site.

So that's what we're doing. We plan to start right away. It's going to start at about 1,200 jobs, and it's --

GOV. GRANHOLM: And the sky's the limit! (Laughter, whooping, applause.)

MR. IMMELT: -- and I find that the governor is one of the most effective salespeople I've ever seen up here.

So that's what we're doing.

Why are we doing it? We've had a long association with the state. University of Michigan is one of the biggest feeders into the GE system. We've had great collaborations. We've got lots of graduates of Michigan and Michigan State that work at GE. We've been long believers in the quality education of the state. We already have 2,000 employees here.

We believe that in the precise machining world, that between the Tier 1 automotive group and the automotive technology per se, that we can tap into some of the great labor resources that already exist in the state.

And I would say that this is a great public-private partnership. You know, as any company -- you know, I work for investors. These investment decisions have to be made from an economic foundation, and we've found the state of Michigan to be aggressive and a good partner.

And again, you know, when I think about a site like this, it's not a short-term thing.

We view this as a long-term commitment. So, you know, it really is both the partnership, but the vision that has to be a part of it. So that's why we're coming to Michigan.

And the last thing I would say is, why is this important? You know, I think, when you think about GE, we're in energy, health care, transportation. We're a $19 billion exporter. You know, we -- our aspiration is to be a good long-term partner in some of the industries that are going to help shape the 21st century, and do it from the base of technology.

We very much believe that the U.S. has to be an export-oriented country. You can only do that from a strong foundation of technology. And so, you know, we look forward to collaborating with the universities and the government here in the state in terms of driving exports in the future, from the standpoint of low-cost manufacturing, high-tech manufacturing and operational capability that's second to none.

So that's why we're here today. It's exciting to be here. And again, I want to say thanks again to Governor Granholm and Senator Stabenow, who've been great partners. And I look forward to working with them in the future as well. So, thank you. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

SEN. STABENOW: Great. Great. Thank you. Thank you.

MR. IMMELT: And now I'd like to introduce the great senator who needs no introduction in this state -- (applause).

SEN. STABENOW: (Laughs.) Thank you, Jeff.

What a great, great day. You know, I was thinking last night, Thomas Edison started GE, and he was raised in Port Huron. Of course, you have to be in Michigan! Of course, right? (Applause.) The home of GE! (Laughs.)

So, we -- we are so excited. It is just -- it's such an important effort that we are doing in rebuilding Michigan, led by our great governor and her vision, and our great lieutenant governor and the team that they have put together in terms of economic development.

And we now have a partner in Washington. Ed Montgomery and the president have let us know in every way possible that they are there as partners. And Ed, we thank you so much for being here. You've been here when we've been struggling with bad news, and we're so glad you're here with good news as we talk about Michigan moving forward.

I am thrilled that, after saying to businesses as they come into my office in Washington and as I travel around the country, "You should be in Michigan," that Jeff was smart enough to take me up on it. (Laughs.) You know, talking with Jeff in his office in New York, with he and his team about all they were doing, to me, it was just a -- a perfect, perfect match.

This is a company, one of the stellar companies in our country and in the world, that is really focused on imagination and innovation and the jobs of the future.

And that's exactly what we're doing, right, Governor?

That's where we are. We are focused on the jobs of the future.

I didn't have to explain to Jeff about why manufacturing was important, and I love that. Because there are folks that somehow think it doesn't matter if you make things anymore in this country. And we all know that we need to. And to have such a terrific leader, not only of his company but in working with President Obama on the broader economic strategies of the country -- we thank you for your public service and your willingness to do that.

But it became very clear very quickly that when we talk about the engineering capacity that we have, which is second to none, in Michigan, the skilled workforce, the outstanding universities, the quality of life -- I mean, what we can do in Michigan, what we are doing, what we have done and what we will do is a perfect fit for a company that is on the move.

In Washington, working on the energy bill, I also appreciate the partnership of GE. We are focused on not only clean-energy incentives but smart-grid technology that will allow the new energy to move quickly from one place to another around the country. We are moving through energy policy and new energy legislation that will make it even more exciting to have this technology here in Michigan.

So let me just say, to quote Thomas Edison, he said, "Always America has emerged from times like these stronger and more prosperous." That's Michigan; that's GE. Stronger, more prosperous -- it's a partner that I'm excited to see happen, a partnership that I think is going to be very prosperous and strong for the future.

So thank you, Jeff, for coming. (Applause.)

MR. IMMELT: Thanks. Thanks, Senator. Thank you.


MR. IMMELT: Thank you very much.

SEN. STABENOW: Let me now turn the microphone over to a great lieutenant governor who I had a chance to work with as my senate leader when I was in the state senate, and somebody who's dogged. We talk all the time about jobs. We plot and plan all the time. And I'm just so pleased that John Cherry's here today.

Lieutenant Governor John Cherry? (Applause.)


MR. IMMELT: How are you? Nice to meet you.

LT. GOV. CHERRY: Very good.

Well, thank you so much, Senator Stabenow. And as the governor has said and the senator said, this is an exciting announcement, because it's a great economic boost.

But what is so exciting for me is to see what a critical role and how it reaffirms the very important position that Michigan's educational system, particularly our higher educational system, plays in our efforts to build a strong economic future in Michigan.

But it has a two-way street. Not only do our universities become a major economic driver, but it's announcements like this then that provide the jobs for our young graduates that allow them to stay here in Michigan and build Michigan's future.

So, again, it's my pleasure to be part of this. This is exciting. And I want -- and every successful project involves a(n) important local partner. And so we have with us today the county executive, Bob Ficano. Bob, please come forward and -- this is all very much a part of Bob's vision for the county and aerotropolis. (Applause.)

ROBERT FICANO (WAYNE COUNTY EXECUTIVE): Thank you very much. First and foremost, I want to say thank you. You could have chosen any place in the world. We know how big your company is, certainly. And you have chosen Michigan. And you have chosen, in our case, Wayne County. And I deeply appreciate this.

It is really a public-private partnership that has helped to put this together. And you're smack dab in the middle of what we are calling an "aerotropolis," meaning that we're going to turn that airport into an economic engine. And just like Hewlett Packard was one of the keystones to Silicon Valley, you're going to be one of the keystones to the aerotropolis that is going to be here in Wayne County in southeastern Michigan. And we appreciate it.

And we're going to continue to work with you. And it's going to be in conjunction with the airport, meaning speed, speed and speed. And what we're competing against is not Chicago, New York; we're competing against Dubai, Beijing and the rest. And what we want to do in government is to set up an environment for you to not only be able to act quickly but to do whatever you want in there very quickly. I think within 21 days of all the site plans being approved, you're going to be able to break ground or to do what you want at Visteon Village to have it set up.

And so I just want to congratulate all the partners that have worked together here to make this possible. And the mantra is business goes where it's welcome and stays where it's wanted. You're certainly welcome here, and we're going to do everything possible to make sure you want to stay here. (Applause.)

GOV. GRANHOLM: All right.

MR. : Congratulations.

MR. : Thank you.

GOV. GRANHOLM: All right. I want to give Ed Montgomery, who's here on behalf of the president of the United States to be able to reinforce the importance of this announcement today. Please say a few words.

ED MONTGOMERY (White House director of recovery for auto communities and workers): Thank you.

It's great to be at this wedding.

And, as a friend of the family, I hope to see the matchmaker --

SEN. STABENOW: You are a friend of the family! (Laughs.)

MR. MONTGOMERY: -- (laughs) -- and the dowry coming for fruition.

SEN. STABENOW: Right. (Laughs.)

MR. MONTGOMERY: And hopefully a long-lasting marriage which will have -- two of you here -- which will grow.

SEN. STABENOW: Many children. Many children.

MR. MONTGOMERY: Yeah, exactly. Many children.

SEN. STABENOW: Many children, yeah. (Laughs.)

MR. MONTGOMERY: This is exactly the kind of public-private partnership that the president has been trying to build, trying to emphasize as part of his economic strategy. He has been working closely with Jeff and very much appreciates his service on the advisory -- Economic Recovery Advisory Board. He's been a real leader on that, and he wants to thank you for your service there.

Obviously we want to thank the governor, who's just been an absolute leader in terms of putting together an economic plan for the state, the kind of vision which -- it marries up exactly with the hot -- the use of education, the use of green technology going forward is exactly the kind of vision that the president shares with you and applauds you for your leadership.

Obviously, the senator has been a constant companion and an ally with us in the efforts to get the recovery act going and provide the incentives to grow, and the lieutenant governor as well. We want to thank them for -- this kind of model that you're building here in Michigan is exactly the kind of thing that the president is trying to build for the country.

And we look forward to playing -- in the future, as you build this operation, R&D inevitably leads to additional manufacturing, leads to additional operations. We look forward to findings ways that we can make sure that the resources of the federal government and the incentives that we're providing are available to you, to Michigan, to create additional jobs and so this thing grows and grows and has a momentum that brings us through the recovery.

Just earlier this week, obviously, the Energy Department announced the availability of close to $6 million for retooling for Ford. As part of that effort, last week we announced about $2 billion to attract new companies in terms of recovery bonds to the state, which -- Michigan got the most of those of any state in the union because we see the -- what the hardworking, talented people in Michigan are going through.

The president is committed to standing behind them. That's why he -- put into place the White House Council on Automotive Communities, which has every single agency tasked to make sure that their resources are made available to auto workers and auto communities, not only today, to help them manage the current crisis, but to build for the future.

And so, again, I'm happy to be at this wedding. (Laughter.) This is a great occasion. I applaud you. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

SEN. STABENOW: Thank you, sir.

GOV. GRANHOLM: Thank you so much.

MR. MONTGOMERY: Thank you. Thank you. Thanks.

GOV. GRANHOLM: We're happy to take some questions. Just for the press corps, we would request that the questions -- I know there's a lot going on today, so the questions should be focused, out of respect for Mr. Immelt, on this project.

Q Thanks. Lots of local engineers already asking us, where do they send their resumes? (Laughter.)

MR. IMMELT: (Laughs.) Well, you know, look. I think we'll probably have a website up by next week and have people be able to access it right away. Like I said, I think speed is what it's all about. And, you know, we've kind of looked at this downturn as a way to launch more investment faster and better position our company for the future.

And so we -- we'll have ways for people to access it very quickly.

GOV. GRANHOLM: Yeah, let me just say that -- I don't know if this was brought up, but these are jobs that will pay around $100,000 a year. So these are high-paying jobs. And as I was saying to Mr. Immelt earlier -- and he knows this; otherwise, he wouldn't have selected this area -- we've got more engineering talent that's hungry and ready to go than anywhere in the world. And you can't have found a better place to be able to make it a success, and quickly.

MR. : (Great ?).

Q How much of the manufacturing process work at the site will be focused on the renewable energy portfolio of GE, specifically wind technology?

MR. IMMELT: So there will definitely be components of wind that go into this operation. You know, what the eventual percentage is, whether it's a third or a half, I can't really answer that right now. But we're a big renewable player, both solar, wind, and we envision that the design and equipment-making and things like that, that have to do with the supply chain around wind manufacturing, will have a very prominent place in this facility.


Q Could you give some specifics about the dowry? How much are we paying? (Laughter.)

GOV. GRANHOLM: Well, the Michigan Economic Growth Authority approved tax incentives pursuant to a 12-year agreement. That 12-year agreement will mean incentives totaling over the course of the agreement about $74 million. General Electric has to meet certain requirements in order to take advantage of all of that. But the return on that investment from the state -- for the state is 146 million (dollars). So we will see, as a result of that $74 million investment, over 12 years a $146 million return on increased income taxes, et cetera, that come back to the state.

Q Yeah. You said 1,200 jobs. Is that -- to start hiring this year. Is that going to be the total number of people working there?

MR. IMMELT: You know, what I -- the way I would describe it is, we envision, you know, plant a seed, make a commitment, 1,200, and then ultimately these things grow over time. You know, again, I think, you know, we're used to operating in bigger -- we're a scale company. We're a big company. So I think as we think of more things, as we -- you know, we've got other engineering centers and places like that, but I think it could grow over time.

The other thing we would point out is that companies like GE never travel alone. We bring other suppliers and other -- tend to bring other people with us. So that's 1,200 GE jobs. But that brings other jobs in the supply chain, you know, that come with us. And so at the end of the day, you know, 1,100 or 1,200 jobs from GE would equal probably another couple thousand jobs that are suppliers and builders and things like that. And so I think the net effect is going to be substantial.

GOV. GRANHOLM: And of course at the end of the day, the federal government is going to be passing a climate change bill, which will create demand for the products, the other products that General Electric manufactures, such as wind turbines or solar panels.

And we'll be having further conversations with Mr. Immelt -- assuming that he feels warmth and welcome here -- (laughter) -- for perhaps the manufacture of wind turbines or their components. And so stay tuned. We hope that this is the beginning of a longer conversation.

Q Mr. Immelt, congratulations, first of all. This is great news for Michigan. You mentioned in your three-point discussion that you'll be co-locating some of the IT services into this facility. Are they Michigan-based, or they'll be actually all over the U.S. or some --

MR. IMMELT: Look, these will all be -- these will all be new Michigan-based jobs. So, you know, where the people get hired from, I don't -- I can't say -- universities. But these will be people that are living here that are hired new to the company.

And one of the things we're also going to do is put -- we have a training program for information technology. That's going to be headquartered here in this facility as well. So I think that's a nice -- a nice touch, if you will, to just make it a more robust process.

Q All right. With these 1,200 jobs, what's the breakdown as far as existing jobs being moved to the facility and new jobs being created within the company?

MR. IMMELT: I think these are -- the one thing about these, they're primarily net new jobs, you know? In other words, the things we're talking about in software and IT, and particularly in some of the manufacturing technology, these support new products that are in our pipeline, or new applications. So the way I would think about these are kind of net new jobs.

Q Could you speak a little bit about who specifically spoke with you in Washington, and what they said to attract you to Michigan?

MR. IMMELT: So, you know, the governor and I probably met at a governors conference a year or so ago. And as you can tell, she's not a bad salesperson, just in general. (Chuckles.)

And Senator Stabenow, we met -- I met with this winter, to have those discussions.

I think inside the administration -- you know, Ed's work inside the administration -- there's clearly a focus on Michigan.

But all that being said, you know, this facility will be open long after the president's gone, you know? (Chuckles.) In other words, this is -- we don't think in terms of four-year terms. We think in terms -- in terms of long-term investment.

So if we weren't comfortable in the competitiveness of the state, if we weren't comfortable that we could sustain this over the long term, we wouldn't -- we wouldn't be here right now. So, you know, I would say I spoke to a lot of people, but in the end, this is a -- this is a GE decision based on a person-to-person partnership that we've struck with the people in Michigan -- you know, Governor Granholm and her team. You know, we shake hands; we've done a deal; now we're going to make it happen. And that's -- we do that in other states, we do that in other countries, and we've done it here.

GOV. GRANHOLM: Yeah, Rick?

Q Mr. Immelt, with the troubles Michigan's had with the auto industry in recent years, is there a sense outside of Michigan, do you think, that the state is sort of for sale right now, that you can get into the state with a good price on investment and take a lot of -- take advantage of a lot of the talent that's here that's under- utilized?

MR. IMMELT: You know, I can't speak for other people. I can only speak for us. And, you know, I started my career in GE in our plastics business selling plastic that went into instrument panels, working with engineers at Ford and GM and Chrysler. I know that there's a lot of good technical people here right now, and I know that there's a tremendous capability in the supply chain here.

So, I mean, I'm not here to give a specific commercial for Michigan, but I would say smart businesspeople go against the grain, you know? And the time to be buying is when other people are selling. (Laughs.)

GOV. GRANHOLM: And have we got a deal for you. That's what I want to say. (Laughs.)

MR. IMMELT: It's so -- it's so -- you know, that's true in almost everything. And I just think -- I have deep respect because I've seen it work; I know that there's great engineering schools in this state. There's great talent in this state. And we've got needs for that.

GOV. GRANHOLM: All right. We'll go with the last one, I think.

Q Yeah, given the -- I mean, this is a -- obviously a very big boost, but, in relation to the total number of jobs lost in the state, a very small amount. Does this just show how much farther we've got to go, or --

GOV. GRANHOLM: Who are you asking? (Laughter.)

Q You, ma'am.

GOV. GRANHOLM: (Laughs.) We clearly have a long path ahead of us. I don't think anybody can sugar-coat that.

But the whole thing is that for a hundred years we've been the proud automotive capital, and we have needed to diversify. You cannot have a healthy economy that's balanced on one leg of an economic stool. So these jobs and the jobs that General Motors is announcing today and the jobs related to batteries and the jobs related to film and the jobs related to wind turbines, all of that is part of the strategy to diversify Michigan's economy and move in a broader way.

So this summer's going to be tough. We know, because of the bankruptcies and because of the suppliers in particular, that this is going to be a tough period of time. But if we are shrewd and strategic and make key investments at the right time, we will emerge leaner, meaner, stronger, greener. And for Michigan that's a good thing. And, in fact, here -- exhibit A -- smart jobs, new economy, Michigan 2.0. That's what we're all about.

SEN. STABENOW: (Laughs.)

GOV. GRANHOLM: All right. Thanks, everybody. (Applause.)

SEN. STABENOW: All right. All right. (Laughs.)

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