PROVIDENCE, R.I. – General Electric is ramping up its presence at its new corporate headquarters in Boston and has unveiled a new digital hub in Rhode Island as it prepares to leave its Connecticut home of the last 42 years.
The company now has about 200 workers in Massachusetts, more than 80 per cent of whom are transplants from Connecticut. They include CEO and Chairman Jeff Immelt, who has worked from a temporary office in Boston since late August.
GE plans to empty its headquarters in Fairfield, Connecticut, by the end of the month after occupying it since 1974. The sprawling 68-acre campus is up for sale. Many of those not migrating to Boston have been shifting to another Connecticut office in Norwalk.
GE executives have characterized their move from the eastern Connecticut suburbs to a more compact headquarters on South Boston’s bustling waterfront as part of a broader mission to tap into an academic setting where high-tech workers want to live and revamp the 124-year-old industrial technology giant for a new digital era.
“You just walk out the door, you’re in the middle of an ecosystem that, quite honestly, as a big company, it makes you afraid,” Immelt told the Washington Ideas Forum about his new Boston office late last month. “You’re where the ideas are. You get more paranoid when you’re doing that and that’s a good thing.”
The company was also drawn by about $120 million in Massachusetts state incentives and additional benefits from the city of Boston. GE’s plans to transform an old candy factory complex into its new 800-person corporate hub are going before a city planning authority later this month.
Part of the company’s strategy includes an expansion of its software division, San Ramon, California-based GE Digital, which unveiled a new temporary office Tuesday in downtown Providence, about an hour’s train ride from the Boston headquarters.
Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo visited the office Tuesday to welcome its first 12 employees. The high-tech branch office is considered a consolation prize for the state after the Democratic governor tried to persuade GE to move its headquarters to Providence. About $5.65 million in state incentives will help GE open a permanent location for about 100 workers next year.
Along with partnering with Rhode Island universities to recruit software engineers, the company said Tuesday it’s working with nonprofits and the federal TechHire initiative, which is affiliated with the Obama administration, to boost the hiring of women, minorities are other overlooked talent.