General Electric facility to be export, service hub
US giant General Electric plans to boost Saudi Arabia’s non-energy exports and significantly increase the number of Saudis qualified in the service sector with its GE Energy Manufacturing Technology Center (GEMTEC) at Dammam Second Industrial City, the corporate giant’s vice chairman told Arab News.
The multimillion-riyal facility is gearing up for production with plans to supply and service the hemisphere from Saudi Arabia.
“The most advanced technology in the world will be manufactured here in Saudi Arabia at this center,” said GE’s John Krenicki. “This is one of our largest manufacturing facilities, and it is an export facility. The high-tech products manufactured here will not be just for the Kingdom but also for Europe and Africa. We will be exporting to a very wide region from here. We have a manufacturing center in Houston, Texas, that does similar work, but this is bigger than that.”
Although the focus of many recent initiatives has been partnerships with universities, Krenicki said manufacturing and service will be the employment engines.
“I think what is very exciting here is more vocational, technical training, field service engineers, so this is not necessarily just about the green engineers; it is about technicians, skilled technicians, where there are a lot of jobs,” said Krenicki. “Think about Saudi Electricity Co., Saudi Aramco or SABIC (Saudi Basic Industries Corp.), they need people to service the equipment. We are going to be providing those technicians working with the vocational schools. There are a lot of jobs in that area to keep the equipment running.”
He said the facility already is running at a high Saudization level that he expects will expand.
“In the first phase, which is done and inaugurated, we have 1,000 employees, and 50 percent of them will be Saudis. That is now,” Krenicki said. “We are investing an additional SR938 million ($150 million) over the next few years, and that will add another 1,000 employees and that will have similar dynamics — meaning more than half will be Saudis. We are not talking; we are doing. We have a very high percentage of Saudi employees already doing very high-technology, export-oriented work. We believe in the future of Saudi Arabia and its people.”
Krenicki said he sees an increasing emphasis on energy efficiency and alternative energy streams for the Kingdom, including solar, wind and nuclear power — all areas in which GE has experience as well as products. He did echo the concerns of some other alternative energy companies at a recent Dammam forum that the Kingdom needs to become competitive with more developed nations in terms of incentives.
“What don’t exist are the incentive schemes here in the Kingdom to support solar business,” Krenicki said. “That will have to have to be put in place for the solar business to take off. I think there is great interest, but the policies need to be put in place for it to materialize. That is a global issue. Look at a country like Germany. It provides very strong incentives and policies for solar even though it does not have great solar resources. Today Germany is the biggest solar market in the world because the government wants it. We need to see similar things in the Middle East and other countries that want to have solar build.”
The Kingdom is hoping to diversify its energy sources, and Krenicki said GE has a similar philosophy.
“Even though the hydrocarbon reserves here are vast, the Kingdom is going to be much more focused on energy efficiency in the future, and that is what GE is all about. How do you produce more from less? By having more efficient gas turbines, more efficient motors and generators, more efficient water technology, so that the Kingdom can conserve hydrocarbon reserves for its own use and also for export,” Krenicki said. “That is how GE is going to help the Kingdom — in becoming much more energy efficient.”