General Electric plans to move its headquarters from Connecticut to Boston by 2018. The company is facing criticism for the tax breaks it will receive – but it is far from the first time GE has faced controversy.
As part of Here & Now's View From The Top series, Jeremy Hobson speaks with GE chief executive Jeffrey Immelt about global tax rates and jobs for American workers.
Interview Highlights: General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt
On the tax incentives GE received for moving its headquarters to Boston
"I understand the debate. You've got to put a little bit of context around the incentives....A lot of these are to build infrastructure in the Seaport that are going to benefit a lot of people, not just GE."
"The way the mayor [of Boston] and the governor [of Massachusetts] look at that is this is an investment, and over time the returns are going to be vast to the people of Boston and the people of Massachusetts -- in terms of job creation, investment in the community, salaries, real estate, things like that."
"We had plenty of chances to go lots of other places — and believe me there were a number of places that would offer more. But this is a 40 or 50 or hundred year investment we are making....If you look at just real estate, wages, taxes paid in the communities and things like that, this is going to be billions of dollars of returns to Boston over time."
On hiring American workers
"We're a big U.S. employer. We're the second biggest exporter. We're one of the biggest manufacturers in the country. For us, 70 percent of our revenue is outside the US. So i think for us to grow the number of jobs in the U.S., your exports are growing even more exponentially than they've been...but that's what it would take."
"Our products are heavily material content, less relative labor content. So if you go to a place like Rutland, Vermont, Lynn, Massachusetts, Hooksett, New Hampshire, our people can compete with anybody in the world and have a tremendous exporting presence in their products."
"We do business in 180 countries around the world...but we continue to develop great exporting capabilities. I think every CEO has to be mindful of what our employment capabilities are: paying good wages, training our people, and we get judged accordingly."
On the Chinese economy
"They are clearly going through a transformation of [an economy] that was more export-based to one that is more consumer-based. In an economy of that size, you don't go through that kind of transformation easily. But we see the Chinese market getting better as time goes on."
On the U.S. economy
"It's slow, steady progress. The U.S. economy gets a little bit better everyday, but it's not robust, it's not what any of us would like to see. I think pre-financial crisis the U.S. economy grew between 3 and three and a half percent. We haven't had a 3 percent year in the last three years. So people are getting used to 2 percent GDP growth. That's too slow, but it's steady."
This segment aired on April 5, 2016.