GE’s Rice pleased with Atlanta as a business center

When General Electric decided to move the headquarters of its Power Systems division to metro Atlanta a decade ago, it was attracted to the state’s business environment.

A decade later, company executives have no regrets.

John Rice, GE’s vice chairman who oversees technology infrastructure for the $182 billion company, spoke today at a press briefing for the Atlanta Press Club.

“One of the reasons that we came to Atlanta and Georgia 10 years ago is that we saw a business-friendly environment,” Rice said. “Since we’ve been here, it’s even become friendlier.”

Rice said he appreciates how the Metro Atlanta Chamber and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce work with existing companies as well as seeking to attract new businesses to the state.

Still Rice said there are challenges to metro Atlanta’s future economic development prospects.

“Threat No. 1 is if you take your current constituents for granted, assuming that if they are here, they’ll stay,” Rice said.

In looking to the future gubernatorial election (and no, he has no interest in the job), Rice said he was confident that Georgia will have have a good governor, even though he added that it’s important for there to be strong leadership on major issues facing the region and state.

Locally, Rice said he was supporting the mayoral candidacy of City Council President Lisa Borders, who he believes could carry forth the legacy and leadership of Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin. He credited Franklin for taking on tough issues, including the overhaul of the city’s sewer system.

“I would like to see Lisa take her place,” Rice said.

When asked about the business community’s failed attempt to get school board governance legislation passed during the last session, Rice was less polite. He blasted the legislature for not passing “good legislation” designed to help Georgia’s students to get a better education soley because of politics.

“We are not going to stand for it any more,” Rice said. “I’m going to stand up ad be counted.”

Still, Rice had nothing but glowing things to say about the Atlanta Public School system and its superintendent Beverly Hall.

GE recently donated a $22 million grant to APS to help build its math and science educational programs — part of a $150 million commitment that the company made to a half dozen school systems.

“We had 10 other places wher we could have put that $22 million,” Rice said. “We chose Atlanta” because the company felt it would get a good “return on that investment.”

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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