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First You Have to Talk

Oct 30, 2013

Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt of General Electric offered some words of wisdom to leaders in Washington in a Bloomberg TV interview today. Asked by interviewer Tom Keene what kind of presidential leadership he would like to see, Immelt spoke broadly about Washington:

It begins with talking with each other. In other words, I’ve done a thousand complex transactions in my lifetime. None of them ever get done unless you actually meet, unless you actually kind of argue, unless you talk about things – not with, no offense, but not with the TV cameras going but kind of one on one.

Immelt made his comments following a keynote speech Tuesday at the National Middle Market Summit, hosted by GE Capital, The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business and the National Center for the Middle Markets. In the Bloomberg interview, Immelt continued in response to a follow-up question about the impact of inaction in Washington:

All of the business world has orchestrated their business to be able to operate assuming nothing happens in Washington. We can sit and hope for immigration reform or tax reform, or things like that but none of us are counting on it anymore. For all the lip service, if we just had a pro-growth agenda. If there just was as government, if people got up every day and talked about how do we grow the economy, I think it helps all of us. But none of are counting on that. We’re all trying to orchestrate on companies around it.

To the Tea Party, he offered a message about spending infrastructure: "The country will never be great unless it has fantastic infrastructure," unable to compete with countries like China. And to the President:

"We’ve got regulations on steroids right now. There’s no country in the world that follows us anymore from a regulatory standpoint. We’ve got to simplify this gosh-darn place."

In a subsequent Bloomberg interview, Fred Smith, CEO of FedEx, echoed Immelt on regulations, calling them "oppressive." The business community has been "crystal" on the issue, he said, adding, "It’s an enormous problem, it’s impeding job creation and business growth, and it needs to be toned back."


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