The Jobs Czar: General Electric's Jeffrey Immelt

How will GE's CEO Jeff Immelt help President Obama solve America's biggest domestic problem: unemployment? Hint: Half of GE's profits come from overseas.

General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt was charged by the president with a Herculean task: figuring out how to get big American firms to start hiring again. First, he says, we need "a sense of national urgency around jobs" and a government that's focused 100 percent on the task at hand. But can Immelt, a self-proclaimed globalist when it comes to running his own company, really help solve America's biggest domestic problem? Lesley Stahl reports.


The following script is from "The Jobs Czar" which aired on Oct. 9, 2011.

Not since the Great Depression has unemployment been this bad for this long. And one of the reasons is that U.S. companies have gone abroad for their workers and their profits. Over the last decade, big American firms have cut around 3 million jobs in the U.S. while adding almost as many overseas.

No company has gone global more aggressively than General Electric, the conglomerate that makes everything from refrigerators to MRI machines to jet engines.

GE's Jeff Immelt: The controversy over U.S. jobs
If you think the only initials on CEO Jeff Immelt's mind are "GE," then think again. He's also big on "R&D," research and development

This past week, President Obama has been out around the country talking about creating jobs. To help him get Americans back to work, he's recruited a most unlikely jobs czar: the Republican CEO of General Electric, Jeff Immelt.

Immelt: The mood is dark. People are pissed. Why not try to do better?

Jeff Immelt talked about his czarship at a recent gathering of GE managers.

Immelt: You know, I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio and my parents are really right wingers. My dad watches like, five or six hours of "Fox News" every day and stuff like that. So I called home and said, "Hey, just to give you a heads up, you know, I'm going to be with the President and he's asked me to lead this jobs council." And my mother said, "Well, you said, no, of course didn't you?" I said, "No mom, that's not what I said."

[Immelt walking onto stage with President Obama, saying: Thank you]

Stahl: When you were chosen, there was a lot of criticism. I saw a headline that said, "The Job Czar from Hell" because of how many jobs GE has outside the US.

Immelt: I've taken heat from the right and heat from the left. And it's been uncomfortable sometimes for me personally to be, to work with the president on this. And I'm proud to do it.

What he's doing is heading a council of CEOs, Wall Streeters and labor leaders to help the president come up with ideas for immediate and long term job growth.

Stahl: We need to create 300,000 new jobs a month, just to get back to where we were before the recession.

Immelt: I think, Lesley, there needs to be a sense of national urgency around jobs that basically, if you just looked at how many hours a day do Republicans spend on job creation, do Democrats spend on job creation, and does the White House, it's nowhere close to 100 percent. We're not spending enough time on jobs.

One of the reasons the president chose Immelt as his jobs czar is because he's actually building new manufacturing plants in the U.S.

He wanted to show us one: this new factory in Batesville, Mississippi, where they're making jet engines for the new Boeing Dreamliner.

Stahl: Does anybody know how many different parts go into that?

Immelt: Somebody does. I'm not sure, if it's, it's not me!

Stahl: Not you!

Immelt: In this engine we probably have invested a billion and a half dollars as a company before getting the first, the first sale.

All told he is adding 15,000 jobs in the U.S. - about half in manufacturing.

Immelt: We've got whole new generations of jet engines, whole new generations of gas turbines. We're spending a lot inside the US.

In Louisville, Kentucky - where GE's Appliance Park has lost about 16,000 workers -- he's actually bringing jobs back from China and Mexico, where wages are going up.

Andrew Metz is the producer.

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