Obama: Council chief Immelt to help guide economy on a 'new mission'

President Obama introduced GM CEO Jeffrey Immelt as the new chief of his outside economic advisory council, saying he will help guide the economy into a new stage of recovery. 

Speaking at GE's birthplace in Schenectady, N.Y., Obama said that the economic recovery is entering a new phase that will necessitate a greater focus on job creation, innovation and international competitiveness.

ADVERTISEMENT
"The past two years years have been about pulling the economy back from the brink," Obama said. "The next two years, our job now, is to put our economy in overdrive."

Obama tapped Immelt, who introduced the president, to head the newly created Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, the successor to the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board (PERAB), which was led by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker. Immelt also served on PERAB.

The president said that Immelt's experience leading GE, the fourth-largest U.S. company, will help the council come up with creative solutions to boost the economy, which he said is not recovering fast enough.

"GE has something to teach businesses all across America," Obama said. "I know his counsel will be an important asset," as the recovery embarks on a "new mission."

Obama's selection of Immelt is the most recent in a series of moves to reach out to the business community. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, after sparring with the president during his first two years in office, lauded the decision Friday.

During his speech, the president also seemed to preview some of the economic themes he will touch on during his State of the Union address on Tuesday.

He praised business tax incentives in his controversial tax-cut deal signed into law in December and stressed the importance of American exports, especially to China. Chinese President Hu Jintao just wrapped up a three-day state visit to the United States. 

Success will be determined not only on what the U.S. can build, Obama said, but "what we can sell in Shanghai ... because that's where the customers are."

Obama praised GM for developing advanced battery technology at its Schenectady plant and urged other businesses to take similar leaps.

"So we know we can compete. Not just in the industries of the past, but in the industries of the future," he said.