The president shakes hands with GE employees and guests.
SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — President Barack Obama used his trip to General Electric on Friday to rally the nation's industrial base and call for some old-fasioned innovation.
The president set out a goal to double the nation's exports over the next five years while declaring its inventive spirit would help lift it out of the recession. He also tapped GE Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Immelt to lead a new economic advisory group to spearhead job creation.
The visit to GE's massive energy division was symbolic. It's where iconic inventor Thomas Edison established his electrical company that would transform into GE in 1892.
"We want an economy that's fueled by what we invent and what we build," the president told the nearly 300 GE employees and guests within one of the cavernous turbine facilities. "We're going back to Thomas Edison's principles. We're going to build stuff and invent stuff."
GE's been in the forefront of innovative energy applications, said Obama, referencing the company's massive wind turbine plant and its efforts in advanced battery technology, making it a model for successful businesses. It's also, he said, a model of how innovation and educational partnership can create new opportunities, as shown during his trip to Hudson Valley Community College last year.
"You can see it right here at this plant; America is still home to the most creative and most innovative businesses in the world, we have the most productive workers in the world," he said. "Especially as we continue to find our way back from the worst recession in our lifetimes, is to harness this spirit, to harness this potential - this potential you all represent."
Obama had an appreciative audience for his 15-minute speech; they frequently broke out into applause and stayed standing throughout his appearance. In the audience were new New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Sen. Charles Schumer and Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, Lt. Gov. Bob Duffy, among others.
Air Force One glided into Albany International Airport right on time Friday noon to drop off the president.
A little more than two dozen guests — soldiers, children and adults and media — waited about two hours in freezing weather to welcome the president to the Capital Region. Obama quickly made his way to a General Electric plant that he toured with Immelt.
The president waves from Air Force One at Albany International Airport.
Just minutes before the 12:10 expected arrival, the massive, six-story tall Air Force One swept in, taxied back and parked while dozens of vehicles circled the plane to give him a ride. (See photos here.)
Obama, wearing a black overcoat and red tie, waved to the cheering crowd and led his passengers across the runway to shake hands and greet onlookers. And as quickly as he arrived, Obama climbed into his sleek black presidential Chevrolet Suburban and was escorted to the plant.
According to press pool reports, Obama was given a tour by Immelt and plant manager Kevin Sharley and looked at some of the company's products, including a steam turbine of rippled metal. The president appeared interested in the several types of generators, touching them and listening intently as their functions were explained. He also spoke with four GE workers, two of whom have been with the company for more than 35 years.
The president was introduced by Immelt in Building L-32 on a stage above the crowd; Immelt remained there behind the president, seated on a chair. Obama took no questions after his speech but stayed a few minutes to shake hands within the front circle of the audience while others held cameras overhead hoping to snap his picture.
He was greeted with cheers as he spoke of what he'd seen and where it was going — Kuwait, India, Saudi Arabia.
The nation's economic recovery, he said, will not be assured by "what we can build in Schenectady, but what we can sell in Shanghai."
GE's $750 million gas turbine contract with India, for example, will create 1,200 new jobs, 400 of them in Schenectady.
The crowd at GE.
"For America to compete around the world, we need to export more goods around the world. That’s where the customers are. It’s that simple," continued the president, particularly with China. "They're selling here, and that's fine. But we want to sell there.
The New York trip comes on the heels of Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to Washington. During talks, the Obama administration struck a deal for China to purchase $45 billion in exports, which, said the president, will mean creation of more than $235,000 jobs.
While the economy is on the upturn, millions of people are still without jobs. Immelt will head a "Council on Jobs and Competitiveness" to be made of business experts, economists and educators yet to be named to advise the president. (We think that Immelt's bona fides in creating jobs wouldn't sit well in Pittsfield, Mass., which GE left abandoned and polluted.)
"The past two years were about pulling our economy back from the brink," said Obama. "The next two years, our job now, is putting our economy into overdrive. Our job is to do everything we can to ensure that businesses can take root and folks can find good jobs and America is leading the global competition that will determine our success in the 21st century."
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iberkshires first on the scene again, with pictures and a story of the Presidents visit to Schenectady, N.Y. with more to follow with pictures and videos. Great job again Tammy keep up the good work.
Its good to see companys starting to grow and the economy starting to have a positive outlook. I was very happy to see the President visit upstate NY because the Northeast needs to be economically strong for the country to rebound.
I work at the SCH campus, it was great to have the President visit the site and give a speech of this nature. Having Jeff Immelt on the advisory council, and now as head of a new advisory council for the president certainly makes these visits a little more probable, but in all this region of Upstate NY does truly boast a host of high-tech manufacturing jobs, both green and traditional (GE and the upcoming AMD FAB plant)
Cool. Another Corporate Plutocrat at the trough. Just what we need - A guy whose 8 figure bonuses are based upon shipping jobs to China.
GE derives more income from it's offshore holdings than it does from its American operations.
Did you know that part of DE's deal to open manufacturing plants in China was to give the Chinese Government access to proprietary technology? Ever wonder why Chinese companies are now the largest windpower equipment manufacturer? It's because GE taught them how to do it over the past decade in exchange for access to cheap labor and supposed access to Chinese markets (which have never really materialized.).
How to make America competitive - make sure GE's stock price stays high. That will be Immelt's "solution." Just watch.