The future of America is in advanced manufacturing. You might be surprised to hear that prognosis comes from Jeff Immelt, CEO of GE. Yes, the same Jeff Immelt, who on May 21, 2007, announced that GE would sell its GE Plastics division to SABIC for net proceeds of $11.6 billion. That Jeff Immelt was enamored with profits in the financial industry.
Immelt is now reducing GE’s financial assets and committing to major investments in manufacturing operations, such as production of advanced plastic composites in a new manufacturing plant in Mississippi.
What a difference a financial crisis can make.
Immelt told the Detroit Economic Club last year: “Many bought into the idea that America could go from a technology-based, export-oriented powerhouse to a services-led, consumption-based economy – and somehow still expect to prosper.
“That idea was flat wrong. And what did we get in the bargain? We’ve seen a great vanishing of wealth. Our competitive edge has slipped away, and this has hit the middle class hard.”
GE is opening a research center for advanced manufacturing technologies in Michigan as part of its strategic rebirth.
Meanwhile the plastics business seems to be thriving as part of SABIC, and is taking a very different path than might have been expected under GE. For example, at last year’s National Plastics Exposition in Chicago, officials of the new company, SABIC Innovative Plastics, announced that long-fiber polypropylene would become part of the company’s materials portfolio. Executives of the old GE Plastics railed against volume-oriented materials such as ABS and PVC.
The business was, and remains, the embodiment of advanced manufacturing. GE Plastics was a leader—if not the leader—in introducing advanced polymer technology in automotive applications. At K 2010, SIP showed new technology in solar cell, as well as other advanced, manufacturing.