General Electric's Immelt Still Talks Like An Outsourcer

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NEW YORK (TheStreet) --General Electric(EV) has gotten lots of attention lately for bringing jobs back to the U.S., but lest anyone get too excited about a manufacturing renaissance in this country, CEO Jeff Immelt threw a bit of cold water on that notion in a recent interview.

"The places where our customers are are other places and you don`t do that unless you create jobs in other places at the same time we are here," Immelt told Charlie Rose earlier this week.

Onshoring is the buzzword of the moment, or insourcing, as The Atlantic magazine called it in a feature in its December issue. The article focuses on GE's revival of its historic Appliance Park in Louisville, Ky., which fell from a peak of 23,000 employees in 1973 to just 1,863 in 2011.

To much fanfare, GE is new starting new assembly lines at the factory, and finding it can actually be more cost-effective to build products in one place instead of by assembling parts made in different places around the world.

But Immelt made it clear this week the insourcing trend has its limits. The CEO said General Electric, which has about 50 percent market share of the large gas turbine market, will sell more gas turbines in Algeria in the next three years than the United States.

To win that type of business, Immelt says, you need to hire Algerians. And he says Americans should essentially--well--stop crying about it.

"I think you would be better off as an American citizen wanting GE to be able to go to every corner of the world, toe-to- toe, compete hard than sitting here and losing market share in the places in the world that are growing," Immelt told Rose. Immelt said while manufacturing can come back in the U.S., he doesn't ever expect to get back to where it was.

"I`m 30 year GE guy. So when I started it was probably 25 percent of American jobs were manufacturing, now it`s nine percent. So is it going to go back to be 25 percent again? Probably not but could it be in the low teens? Yes," he said.

Insourcing sounds nice, in other words, but your grandparents' GE ain't coming back.

-- Written by Dan Freed in New York.