Debt Crises Not A Damper For Some U.S. Businesses

General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt (left) and FedEx CEO Fred Smith were featured speakers at the "Leading from the Middle" conference, focused on businesses with annual sales of $10 million to $1 billion. i i

General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt (left) and FedEx CEO Fred Smith were featured speakers at the "Leading from the Middle" conference, focused on businesses with annual sales of $10 million to $1 billion.

Courtesy of General Electric hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of General Electric
General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt (left) and FedEx CEO Fred Smith were featured speakers at the "Leading from the Middle" conference, focused on businesses with annual sales of $10 million to $1 billion.

General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt (left) and FedEx CEO Fred Smith were featured speakers at the "Leading from the Middle" conference, focused on businesses with annual sales of $10 million to $1 billion.

Courtesy of General Electric

Despite concerns about Congress and the European debt crisis, most U.S business owners remain optimistic and expect growth to continue this year, the heads of both General Electric and FedEx said Thursday.

Immelt answers a question from an employee during a town hall meeting at the GE Energy Greenville Operations campus in Greenville, S.C., on July 13. Immelt is chairman of President Obama's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, an advisory group. i i

Immelt answers a question from an employee during a town hall meeting at the GE Energy Greenville Operations campus in Greenville, S.C., on July 13. Immelt is chairman of President Obama's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, an advisory group.

Brett Flashnick/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Brett Flashnick/AP
Immelt answers a question from an employee during a town hall meeting at the GE Energy Greenville Operations campus in Greenville, S.C., on July 13. Immelt is chairman of President Obama's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, an advisory group.

Immelt answers a question from an employee during a town hall meeting at the GE Energy Greenville Operations campus in Greenville, S.C., on July 13. Immelt is chairman of President Obama's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, an advisory group.

Brett Flashnick/AP

"There's still a lot of growth," GE CEO Jeff Immelt told about 600 executives attending a conference on middle-sized businesses in Columbus, Ohio. "It's a long, slow recovery ... but it is getting better."

FedEx CEO Fred Smith agreed, saying that shipments of goods continue to reflect a growing economy. "We don't see a contraction," Smith said, "just slow growth; steady as she goes."

Immelt, who serves as chairman of President Obama's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, and Smith were featured speakers at the "Leading from the Middle" conference, focused on businesses with annual sales of $10 million to $1 billion. That group covers about 200,000 firms, with 41 million jobs. GE sponsored the event in partnership with Ohio State University's Fisher College of Business.

Immelt said GE's customers have "a lot of cash ... and a fair amount of optimism." But growth is being restrained by worries that the European debt crisis could evolve into a global banking crisis, and that political paralysis will prevent Congress from taking actions to help businesses.

Smith takes part in a discussion at the National Conference of State Legislatures in Nashville, Tenn., on Aug. 15, 2006. Smith said Thursday that he expects holiday retail sales to grow by 2 to 3 percent. That would be down slightly from last year, but still positive, he said. i i

Smith takes part in a discussion at the National Conference of State Legislatures in Nashville, Tenn., on Aug. 15, 2006. Smith said Thursday that he expects holiday retail sales to grow by 2 to 3 percent. That would be down slightly from last year, but still positive, he said.

Mark Humphrey/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Mark Humphrey/AP
Smith takes part in a discussion at the National Conference of State Legislatures in Nashville, Tenn., on Aug. 15, 2006. Smith said Thursday that he expects holiday retail sales to grow by 2 to 3 percent. That would be down slightly from last year, but still positive, he said.

Smith takes part in a discussion at the National Conference of State Legislatures in Nashville, Tenn., on Aug. 15, 2006. Smith said Thursday that he expects holiday retail sales to grow by 2 to 3 percent. That would be down slightly from last year, but still positive, he said.

Mark Humphrey/AP

"Congress doing just one bipartisan thing would help" build confidence by showing that the political process is not completely broken, Immelt said.

Smith also said Congress' inaction is restraining growth. Existing policies on taxes, trade, energy and regulations are "optimally designed to impede growth," he said.

Still, based on goods being shipped, Smith expects holiday retail sales to grow by 2 to 3 percent. That would be down slightly from last year, but still positive, he said.

The evidence of business optimism is showing up in the bellies of FedEx planes. "People are voting with their shipments," he said.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.