Shumlin praises GE, area work force
By Gordon Dritschilo
Staff Writer | May 13,2014
Anthony Edwards / Staff Photo
Gov. Peter Shumlin takes a test flight using the Boeing F-18 flight simulator during a demonstration Monday at GE Aviation in Rutland Town.
Gov. Peter Shumlin praised GE’s Rutland work force Monday as he campaigned to give them more to do.
Shumlin joined defense contractors Monday to enlist public support in the effort to get Congress to pay for more fighter planes that use parts made at Rutland’s GE plant.
Congress is considering a request from the U.S. Navy for 22 additional E/A-18G Growler jet fighters. Boeing Military Aircraft vice president Michael Gibbons explained that the Growler, built by Boeing using engines made by GE incorporating components from the Rutland plant, jams enemy radar and communications around an attack force. The planes cost roughly $68 million each.
“The U.S. Navy has made the Growler the No. 1 priority on their unfunded requirements list,” he said.
The event at the Windcrest Road plant Monday coincided with GE’s employee appreciation day. The company showed its appreciation by giving its employees a lunch of grilled steak and shrimp while Shumlin showed it in his speech.
“I brag about you every opportunity I get,” he told the employees eating under a large tent in the parking lot. “You make me as proud as anything in Vermont.”
He went on to describe a conversation in which he proclaimed to GE CEO Jeff Immelt that Vermont had the second-lowest unemployment rate in the country because it has the most innovative, dedicated work force in the world.
“Jeff came away understanding, full-on, that the most important resource we have is you,” Shumlin said.
Chris Sanders, an aide to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said the senator would fully support the Navy’s request for the additional planes. Boeing’s Gibbons credited GE for the success of the Growler program.
“You’re great at the execution, you’re fantastic at the quality, but the innovation the governor mentioned, frankly, is what keeps this program going,” he said.
Al DiLibero, a vice president at GE Aviation, lauded the company’s track record, saying they had achieved 100 percent on-time delivery of the engines made for Boeing.
The company also had an F-18 fighter jet simulator on-site in a large trailer parked just outside the plant. Shumlin went for a “flight” before making his remarks, with Sen. Kevin Mullin, R-Rutland County, playing ‘‘Top Gun’s’’ Goose to his Maverick.