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Debt Crises Not A Damper For Some U.S. Businesses

Despite concerns about Congress and the European debt crisis, most U.S business owners remain optimistic and expect growth to continue this year, the heads of both General Electric and FedEx said Thursday.

"There's still a lot of growth," GE CEO Jeff Immelt told about 600 executives attending a conference on middle-sized businesses. "It's a long, slow recovery ... but it is getting better."

FedEx CEO Fred Smith agreed, saying that shipments of goods continue to reflect a growing economy. "We don't see a contraction," Smith said, "just slow growth; steady as she goes."

Immelt, who serves as chairman of President Obama's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, and Smith were featured speakers at the "Leading from the Middle" conference, focused on businesses with annual sales of $10 million to $1 billion. That group covers about 200,000 firms, with 41 million jobs. GE sponsored the event in partnership with Ohio State University's Fisher College of Business.

Immelt said GE's customers have "a lot of cash ... and a fair amount of optimism." But growth is being restrained by worries that the European debt crisis could evolve into a global banking crisis, and that political paralysis will prevent Congress from taking actions to help businesses.

"Congress doing just one bipartisan thing would help" build confidence by showing that the political process is not completely broken, Immelt said.

Smith also said Congress' inaction is restraining growth. Existing policies on taxes, trade, energy and regulations are "optimally designed to impede growth," he said.

Still, based on goods being shipped, Smith expects holiday retail sales to grow by 2 to 3 percent. That would be down slightly from last year, but still positive, he said.

The evidence of business optimism is showing up in the bellies of FedEx planes. "People are voting with their shipments," he said.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

A Sense Of Self: What Happens When Your Brain Says You Don't Exist

In his new book, The Man Who Wasn't There, Anil Ananthaswamy examines the ways people think of themselves — and how those perceptions can be distorted by certain brain conditions.
NPR

Squeezed By Drought, California Farmers Switch To Less Thirsty Crops

Water scarcity is leading farmers away from planting staples and towards planting higher-value, lower-water specialty crops. Think wine grapes and pomegranates instead of citrus and avocados.
WAMU 88.5

Obama's Trip To Africa & Foreign Aid

By visiting Africa this month, President Obama is drawing attention to one of the diplomatic tools that most directly shapes America's relationships with other countries: foreign aid and assistance. But now all policy makers at home feel the United States is pursuing the soundest strategy when it comes to providing aid abroad. We explore the issue with the official in charge of the Africa portfolio for the United States Agency for International Development.

NPR

As Twitter Flirts With Hearts, Will You Miss The Stars?

A different Twitter greeted some users when they logged on Tuesday as the social media company tries to win more hearts — and users.

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