AmCham and GE: 35 Years of Business, Innovation and Investing in Hungary

Interview

Írisz Lippai-Nagy

Ahead of their joint 35th anniversary gala on June 7, the Budapest Business Journal sat down with Írisz Lippai-Nagy, CEO of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hungary and Endre Ascsillán, GE’s chief strategic and government affairs officer, and global head of business development at GE Vernova Steam Power, Nuclear New Build.

BBJ: Congratulations to both AmCham and GE. In addition to the fact that you have both been in Hungary for 35 years, what else links AmCham and GE?

Írisz Lippai-Nagy: It’s our commitment to key U.S. values such as transparency, progress, and the high quality of our work, as well as our willingness to engage in multi-stakeholder discussions to drive innovation and enhance competitiveness that connects us.

Endre Ascsillán: As an American company with a global footprint, we are proud to be one of the founding members of AmCham in Hungary, bringing a company culture and innovation expertise to the country that supports the competitiveness of Hungary on global markets. We have been investing for 35 years, in many cases through cooperation with AmCham, building local and regional relationships.

BBJ: What has been the most significant lesson (or lessons) you have learned about getting things done in Hungary over these three and a half decades?

IL-N: Over the years, we’ve built a powerful business community at AmCham, consisting of more than 300 members, including American, Hungarian and other international businesses. We have faced several challenges, but time has shown that it’s by the community and our collaborative initiatives that we can shape our present and future and get things done.

EA: Unity is our strength. If we have allies, a collaborative approach brings the best results. We both believe in partnerships and have been trusted partners in regulatory affairs and policy shaping all these years that support innovation and global competitiveness in Hungary. It’s a proud accomplishment that GE’s company values, expertise in innovation, manufacturing technology, lean mindset, environment, health and safety and other standards have positioned Hungary and the Hungarian workforce as global players in the market.

Endre Ascsillán

BBJ: You both represent core American values. Are these as vital (and welcome) in Hungary today as in 1989?

IL-N: We can undoubtedly see an opening towards the East, but at the same time, as a European country, Hungary holds Western and American values that have become part of our culture, including our business culture, and resonates with many of us. In today’s rapidly changing world, timeless Western values, such as democracy, diversity, equality, and transparency, are more crucial than ever to build a stable and sustainable society capable of staying resilient even amidst constant changes. I’m proud that our business community stands by them and that we can have the support of such impactful companies as GE. 

EA: Yes, our technology expertise, innovation capabilities, and global reach are vital for serving our customers and partners effectively. We have consistently put these assets to work in building a strong local presence by leveraging the importance of our Hungarian activities and highly skilled local teams specialized in important technology sectors. Hungary was and remains a critical part of this work.

BBJ: AmCham Hungary was the first chamber in the region. GE was a similar pathfinder. Did you see part of what you were doing here as being regional role models?

IL-N: Our activities, whether it’s our professional, social, or advocacy work, have been focused primarily on our members and addressing specific challenges within Hungary; in doing so, we aimed to set a standard. At the same time, as a member of the AmCham network spanning almost 50 countries in Europe and Eurasia, we participate in international initiatives and gladly share news about our innovative projects. Furthermore, we’re delighted to note that representatives from our member companies enthusiastically spread the word about our activities. This not only amplifies our reach but also fills us with joy and pride, knowing that our efforts are making a positive impact and setting us apart in our field.

AE: GE has expanded its presence significantly since acquiring Tungsram in 1989 by bringing all primary business divisions to Hungary, creating one of GE’s most important hubs in Europe. The recent formation of three independent industry-leading global public companies focused on aviation, healthcare, and energy demonstrates GE’s remarkable legacy and ensures continued value creation for customers.

BBJ: There is one very concrete link between AmCham and GE in Hungary, and that is the late Dr. Iván Völgyes. Credited by many as the father of modern lobbying in Hungary, Völgyes was born in Budapest in 1936 and moved to the United States in 1956. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, he became instrumental in bringing many U.S.-based businesses to Hungary. As the chief advisor to General Electric in Hungary, Völgyes helped bring six of GE’s 10 global core businesses and more than USD 1 billion in investment to the country. He also has close ties to AmCham through his dedicated efforts to foster U.S.-Hungary business relations, in tribute to which the chamber established an award named in his honor. What do you think he would make of your joint 35th anniversary?

IL-N: I believe he would welcome our joint celebration, reflecting our strong partnership over the years and our shared interest and commitment to promoting U.S.-Hungarian business relations and the local business environment. This serves as the continuation of the legacy he started, just as the Dr. Iván Völgyes Award recognizes those individuals who have contributed significantly to the development of the Hungarian American business relations.

AE: I hope he would feel proud to see GE’s contributions toward the Hungarian economy. Today, these include:

• High-performance gas turbine components and small- and medium-sized power plants are being exported to more than 160 countries from GE Vernova’s state-of-the-art factory in Veresegyház.

• Hungary is one of the seven global strategic sites of GE HealthCare and home to data science teams contributing significantly to numerous precision care solutions, including oncology, cardiology, and neurology applications.

• GE Aerospace’s unique aircraft parts repair facility in Central and Eastern Europe is based in Veresegyház. The plant serves more than 170 customers worldwide by supporting GE Aerospace’s major overhaul factories and airlines.

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of May 17, 2024.

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