Share This Page

GE's finance unit woos middle-market chiefs in Pittsburgh

| Thursday, June 13, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
GE Capital Chief Commercial Officer Mike Pilot in the Strip District on Wednesday. The company's executives are riding the bus around the country talking to middle market companies.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
GE Capital Chief Commercial Officer Mike Pilot (right) gives an interview on a bus en route to the Strip District Wednesday. The company's executives are riding the bus around the country talking to middle market companies.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
GE Capital Chief Commercial Officer Mike Pilot at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center Wednesday, June 12, 2013. The company's executives are riding the bus around the country talking to middle market companies about the current financial market.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
GE Capital Chief Commercial Officer Mike Pilot listens to a demonstration at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center Wednesday, June 12, 2013. The company's executives are riding the bus around the country talking to middle market companies.

General Electric Co. came to Pittsburgh on Wednesday as part of a 20-city bus tour to strengthen its financial services arm even as it cuts its size and changes management.

GE Capital's Roadshow for Growth, hoping to add middle-market customers, entertained about 75 at an event at the Sports Museum in the Heinz History Center, as GE Capital Chief Commercial Officer Mike Pilot and former Penguins star Ron Francis talked motivation, competition and winning.

Pilot also met with executives at McKesson Automation Inc. in Cranberry and Accrotool Co. in New Kensington about challenges and opportunities companies like them are facing.

Pittsburgh is the seventh stop on a tour that started in Kansas City last month and goes to Cleveland on Thursday.

The manufacturing giant, which makes jet engines, locomotives and medical scanners, also announced a new executive to lead its finance unit as it scales back its size and comes under heightened regulatory oversight.

GE named Chief Financial Officer Keith Sherin to lead GE Capital, succeeding the retiring Mike Neal.

Pilot said a company like Accrotool, which has prospered under CEO Bill Phillips Sr., is the kind of middle market company he would like to add to GE Capital's portfolio of customers.

“This is the middle market, right here,” Pilot said, standing on Accrotool's production floor.

Phillips, 71, started the company 41 years ago as a three-man machine shop. It now employees 110 workers who work three shifts, 24 hours, every day, fueling $15 million in annual sales.

At McKesson, Pilot met with CEO Kraig McEwen and toured a manufacturing plant that makes equipment that automates the delivery of drugs in hospital pharmacies. “We were excited they wanted to come in,” said spokeswoman Betsy Martinelli.

“When middle market companies do well, the economy does well,” said Pilot, who oversees selling strategies and marketing at the finance unit.

The middle market sector — companies with annual revenue between $10 million and $1 billion — generates $9 trillion in revenue annually and accounts for 34 percent of employment nationwide, according to the National Center for the Middle Market at Ohio State University's Fisher College of Business.

Pilot said the nation's 200,000 middle market companies have always been a focus of GE Capital, with lease financing for equipment purchases and commercial loans for operations.

For 80 million consumers, GE Capital offers credit private-label credit cards and retail sales financing.

The middle market is often overshadowed by the nation's 6 million small businesses and 2,000 large corporations, but it is a crucial sector, Pilot said.

The mid-sized companies actually increased employment during the Great Recession, a performance he called “dramatic.”

“It's super dramatic in Pittsburgh,” Pilot said, where middle market companies comprise only 1 percent of total businesses, but account for 34 percent of Pittsburgh's employment, according to data from Dun and Bradstreet and research by the National Center for the Middle Market.

The segment has 1,611 companies with 514,000 employees in the Pittsburgh region. Revenue from these companies grew by 6.7 percent in 2012 to $72.4 billion, compared to 2.9 percent at large companies. Employment grew 4.0 percent in 2012.

Pilot said middle market CEOs tell him their top concerns are taxes, government regulations, such as health care costs, and finding skilled workers.

Mark Roach, Accrotool's vice president of sales and marketing, said he hopes the GE Capital tour is able to attract some attention from government officials in Washington.

“Hopefully they can carry the message to Congress on what the needs are, and what they can do to help,” Roach said.

One of those things is worker training. “I'd like to see more training from the vocational schools, there's just not enough,” Phillips said.

Many young people are focused on going to college and working with computers. “We need more guys out in the field, “ he said. “We have guys here who make $70,000 to $80,000 a year.”

GE Capital had $538 billion in assets as of March 31, larger than all but six banks, according to data compiled by the Federal Reserve. The unit reported profits of $7.4 billion on $46 billion in revenue last year.

GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt has pledged to reduce GE Capital's size. Pilot said total assets have since declined to about $400 billion, and should decline further by the end of the year.

John D. Oravecz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7882 or joravecz@tribweb.com. Staff writer Tom Yerace and Bloomberg News contributed to this report.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.