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Lights Out, Fairfield: GE To Move Headquarters to Boston

Slimmed Down Company Moving into Temporary Quarters This Summer, Plans to Establish 800-Staff HQ in Boston's Up-and-Coming Seaport District By 2018
January 13, 2016
GE will sell its Fairfield, CT headquarters campus along with offices at Rockefeller Plaza in New York City as part of its relocation to Boston, set to begin next summer.
GE will sell its Fairfield, CT headquarters campus along with offices at Rockefeller Plaza in New York City as part of its relocation to Boston, set to begin next summer.
After conducting a much-publicized search, General Electric Co. will relocate its global headquarters from Fairfield, CT, to an as-yet undisclosed site in Boston's emerging Seaport District business hub, lured by $145 million in public financial incentives and tax relief, and the region's reputation for innovation and technology talent.

The new corporate headquarters will have about 800 employees, comprised of 200 corporate staff and 600 digital industrial product managers, designers and developers for GE's Digital, Current, robotics and Life Sciences divisions, the multinational company said in a statement Wednesday.

To help "offset the costs" of the relocation, GE will sell its current headquarters offices in Fairfield, the Connecticut suburb where it relocated from Manhattan in 1974; and at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City. GE headquarters employees will relocate to a temporary location in Boston starting this summer, with a full relocation completed in phases by 2018. GE will hold a public briefing in Boston with government officials, and business and community leaders, on Feb. 18.

Also helping make the move pencil out are incentives of up to $120 million being made available through grants and other programs offered by Massachusetts, and property tax relief valued at up to $25 million offered by the city of Boston.

Those corporate perks are on top of $1 million in workforce training grants, up to $5 million for an innovation center to connect GE with innovators from Massachusetts research institutions and universities, Seaport District transportation improvements, and employee relocation assistance.

GE began its formal review of sites with a list of 40 locations last June prompted by business tax increases in Connecticut. At the time, GE said i was seeking a headquarters location in "another state with a more pro-business environment." Although Massachusetts has been derided with the nickname "Taxachusetts" in the past, the Tax Foundation last month ranked the Commonwealth 25th out of 50 states in terms of overall tax conditions, although it scored a lower 39th for corporate taxes. Connecticut was ranked 44th and New York was ranked 49th overall.

GE whittled down the possibilities to a short list said to include New York and Atlanta as well as Boston. Last fall, corporate relocation insiders said the company was leaning toward Atlanta. In addition to touring locations in New York, Rhode Island and Georgia, GE executives are said to have visited numerous site in the greater Boston area, including the 175,436-square-foot 253 Summer St.

The self-described "digital industrial company" is focusing on software and analytics based solutions and equipment that promotes connectivity with its heavy equipment and other products in its industrial sectors. GE will establish a "Digital Foundry" to create, incubate and develop products together with customers, startups and partners.

"It's a big name and a big win for the city and region," said Mark Stewart, senior vice president and branch manager of Savills Studley’s Boston office. "It's a real incentive-driven exercise."

"They're shaking up their office environment the way they've repeatedly shaken up their business model, breaking from the horizontal corporate campus into more vertical urban environment," said Stewart, who isn't connected to the relocation or site selection project.

Direct access to Logan International Airport was likely a factor in picking the Seaport District over sites in the Boston suburbs or Westchester County, NY, Stewart said.

Only about 800 of GE’s more than 300,000 employees work at the Fairfield 480,000-square-foot headquarters property on Merritt Parkway. In keeping with current corporate trends, and the goal of repositioning itself as a high-tech enterprise, GE will distribute the remainder of back office and administrative staff now housed in Fairfield to divisions throughout the company.

"It's about swapping of the back office positions for more high tech and digital jobs, with support services distributed to their divisions, most likely lower-cost locations," Stewart noted. "In addition to the incentives, the move is about demographics, innovation and finding that industrial technology base that they're looking for."

GE already has nearly 5,000 employees across Massachusetts in such business lines as Aviation, Oil & Gas and Energy Management. The company moved its Life Sciences headquarters to Marlborough, MA, in 2014 and announced last year that Current, its energy services start-up, would be headquartered in Boston.

"In addition to adding hundreds of high-paying jobs to our state, we look forward to partnering with GE to achieve further growth across a spectrum of industries," said Governor Charlie Baker.

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