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Q&A: Charlene Begley on Finding Michigan Talent

It seems Metro Detroit is getting the attention of some impressive women these days. In the past week, Judith Rodin gave Detroit a verbal high five. And, on Monday, Charlene Begley was among the GE officials in town to announce more high-tech jobs coming to Michigan.

Begley, one of Fortune magazine's 50 Most Powerful Women, was on site in Van Buren Township to highlight the addition of 220 jobs to GE's original commitment to bring 1,100 jobs to Michigan. The jobs will be part of GE Aviation, and the positions will help develop fuel-efficient jet engines for commercial and military aircraft (while the Blog is mostly about Detroit, I also like to celebrate job creation of ANY kind in this here state).

Begley also will be speaking today at the Inforum annual meeting in Dearborn. This highly impressive executive – president and CEO of GE Home & Business Solutions as well as SVP and CIO for GE – took time to chat with the Blog about Michigan's strengths (we do have some), GE's investments here and whether she could talk her company into moving here.

Q: Have you ever been to Detroit before? What are you looking forward to if you have been here?
A: Yes, I have been to Detroit numerous times since 2001 when I was in my role as CEO of GE Plastics and GE Fanuc Automation (which is now GE Intelligent Platforms). I came here to spend time with the auto companies, as they were significant customers. Just last month, I had the pleasure of visiting this fine city again when I came to see our state-of-the-art Technology Center in Van Buren Township. I have been so impressed by the local talent here and the tenacious, passionate spirit of this great state. I look forward spending more time in Michigan, meeting with our talented, experienced employees, and taking advantage of the robust cultural offerings I have heard so much about.

Q: What kind of messages do you want to share with local businesspeople?
A: While we are in the early days of our partnership with Michigan, we love what we've seen! Since opening the doors to our Technology Center in October 2009, we've been more than impressed by the rich pool of talent in Michigan. To date, we have hired over 200 experienced professionals at our Technology Center. The information technologists and engineers that will work at this Center will help GE develop innovative new software, processes and technologies to drive excellence in manufacturing for GE and its customers. We look forward to making this site GE's largest concentration of IT professionals around the globe.

Q: What could Detroit-area companies learn from GE and its strengths?
A: We believe innovation is the future of GE, the future of the country and the future of Michigan, and we are very appreciative for the state's tremendous support. We have also been very impressed by the local talent here. With its rich history, Michigan is well positioned to be a leader in advanced manufacturing and technology, and GE is happy to be a part of it.

Q: Could you talk to your superiors about moving the GE headquarters to Detroit? We have a great riverfront, fine dining and lots of talented people!
A: Home of Motown and the Detroit Red Wings … you've got me sold.

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