As the CEO of a manufacturing business employing more than 12,000 American workers, I believe that leaders in industry, government, workforce, and higher education have to work together to continue encouraging American competitiveness and job growth. This includes promoting smart policies and programs in areas such as regulation, taxes, innovation, workforce development, trade and investment—including investment from overseas.
A key factor in the success of GE Appliances for the past two years, and for our planned rapid growth over the next five years, has been foreign investment. In 2016, General Electric Co. sold GE Appliances to Qingdao Haier Co., Ltd. (“Haier”)—a Chinese company publicly traded on the Shanghai stock exchange. As a result, GE Appliances is now part of the world’s number one appliances manufacturer.
Some in the business community have been disapproving of American companies that receive foreign investment. In certain cases, especially when there are legitimate national security concerns, those views may have merit. But despite one recent uninformed commentary about Haier’s acquisition of our business, our story is one of continued success for American workers, suppliers, and other business partners.
Haier is committed to the growth and long-term investment of GE Appliances, which is why we are able to continue to add $14 billion to the U.S. economy annually, including spending $1.3 billion each year with more than 1,700 U.S. suppliers. It has allowed us to invest more than $100 million in 2017 since the acquisition to modernize equipment and factories, and to improve and grow the largest appliance delivery network in the U.S., which reaches 90% of the population.
GE Appliances remains headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky, our 900-acre home for 65 years, where we employ over 6,000 people and house five of our nine U.S. factories, a global technology center, and more. Our four other factories in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina moves us closer to achieving Haier’s goal of zero distance to our customers. Simply said, this means operating in the markets where our customers live. We also continue to operate independently under the day-to-day direction of a local team: Chief Operating Officer Melanie Cook; Chief Commercial Officer Rick Hasselbeck and me.
Some may have preferred for GE Appliances continue to be U.S.-owned. But in our case, a choice between domestic and foreign investment did not exist. No domestic corporation or investor group was able and willing to make a deal that would enable us to grow our workforce, improve our facilities, and compete to be the best—all while keeping our operations across America thriving. In Haier we got all that, plus a multitude of other advantages that partnering with an established global appliance manufacturer has brought to our business.
America remains a manufacturing powerhouse, producing about $2.2 trillion worth of products annually with a manufacturing value chain that makes up one-third of the U.S. economy. Businesses that are well-run, well-capitalized, and continuously innovating are the engine of domestic job growth. Foreign investment may not be the best path to success for every business. But at GE Appliances, we are proud of our roots and our service to U.S. consumers for more than 100 years, proud to now be a part of Haier, and enthusiastic about a future where our innovative products will take our business and our communities.
Kevin Nolan is the president and CEO of GE Appliances, a Haier company, headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky. He is GE Appliances’ senior officer, with overall responsibility for setting the business’ short- and long-term strategy, including technology, product innovation and product line performance to deliver financial and business results.