In what analysts see as a major vote of confidence for the Turkish economy, General Electric (GE) has decided to move all managing operations in the eastern and African growth markets (EAGM) to İstanbul. Officials from GE Healthcare and Turkey’s Investment Support & Promotion Agency said at a joint press conference on Friday that GE Healthcare, a US$ 17 billion healthcare business, has decided to combine the EAGM region into a single “International Diagnostic Imaging” operation and conduct its activities from İstanbul. The company will split a major part of its operations from its London center and move it to İstanbul. The company’s Western European operations will still handled by the London center. With this new move, GE Healthcare will coordinate all its operations in 80 countries in four major regions — Central Asia, the Middle East, Russia and Africa — from its İstanbul center. Richard di Benedetto, president and CEO of GE Healthcare, International-EAGM will be overseeing the company’s operations. The EAGM region accounted for more than US$ 600 million in revenue in 2007 and is expected to double the figure to US$ 1.2 billion by 2010 thanks to the new structuring. Addressing reporters, di Benedetto vowed “to bring other health industry leaders to Turkey,” adding that “the move represents the importance of Turkey for GE Healthcare.” He stressed that the US and European companies are already enthusiastic about investing in Turkey. He noted that he expects another large investment will be announced shortly after their arrival. Turkey’s Investment Support & Promotion Agency President Alpaslan Korkmaz reminded the audience that Turkey ranked as the world’s 15th largest economy in 2007 and had become the fastest growing economy in the European Union. He said, “İstanbul is a candidate for base operations for many companies because it is centrally located, with up to a four-hour flight reaching many regions, and has highly skilled labor.” Korkmaz predicted Turkey will become a brand name for base operations and that many large companies will move their headquarters to Turkey. He pointed out that “rich cultural history enhances the Turks’ bargaining power in the region.” Korkmaz also added, “We’ll be making another announcement on a large Australian company coming to Turkey.” He declined to give more details. Currently, a total of 19,217 companies with international capital operate in Turkey, with half of them choosing İstanbul as a base. In the first three month of 2008, 754 companies and branch offices with international capital were established, while 155 international companies bought shares in domestic companies. GE Healthcare CEO di Benedetto said, “Our goal is to cooperate with local universities, engineering firms and local healthcare representatives.” He stressed that his company wants to promote the “early health” model of care, helping clinicians find new ways to approach diseases, increasing their patients’ quality of life. The company is hoping to address some of the key healthcare challenges facing the region, focusing on the shifting trends in healthcare delivery as it relates to the “early health” model. “In the world today, 2 billion people have no healthcare. Our intention as GE Healthcare is to reduce this number. As a first step, we’ll employ 240 top management people and will double the number next year,” di Benedetto said. GE Healthcare provides transformational medical technologies and services that are shaping a new era in patient care. The company’s expertise in medical imaging and information technologies, medical diagnostics, patient monitoring systems, performance improvement, drug discovery and biopharmaceutical manufacturing technologies is helping clinicians around the world develop new ways to fight diseases. GE’s “Healthcare Re-imagined” vision promotes the “early health” model of care, helping clinicians re-imagine new ways to predict, diagnose, inform and treat disease, so their patients can live their lives to the fullest. “A key concern for this region is the rise in healthcare costs. Once again, this puts the spotlight on the need for an ‘early health’ model of care. Shifting resources to ‘early health’ and developing technologies that allow healthcare providers to diagnose disease at the earliest possible stage, when there can be many treatment options, is better medicine. It also makes simple economic sense,” di Benedetto said. Developments in healthcare technology are being rapidly harnessed throughout the region to improve the general level of healthcare delivery. This is particularly relevant in addressing certain medical conditions that are more prent regionally. Diabetes is reaching epidemic proportions and obesity, stress and smoking-related illnesses are on the rise.