General Electric Headquarters Groundbreaking Goes Off While Protesters Decry Tax Break

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By Colin A. Young


BOSTON — As they milled around a parking lot on the Fort Point Channel on Monday morning, state and city officials used phrases like “global landmark” and “iconic location” to describe the office building that is expected to soon rise above the pavement.

The site, situated on Necco Court between South Station and the city’s Seaport District, will be the home of General Electric’s planned “Innovation Point” campus. Governor Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who worked behind the scenes in 2015 to lure the manufacturing and innovation giant to Massachusetts, celebrated the groundbreaking for GE’s new headquarters and their own major economic development victory.

“This is a big day and a big statement and one more step forward in the continuing evolution of Massachusetts as a global player on so many fronts and in so many ways,” Baker said Monday morning.

As evidence of the transformation, the governor pointed to the fact that a Fortune 500 company will soon establish its headquarters in an area where he used to visit an array of bars and clubs.

“Let me just say, Mr. Mayor, you’ve come a long way, baby, since then,” Baker said to Walsh.

The facility is planned for 2.4 acres of land at what Walsh called “a key point of our waterfront.” Construction is expected to generate 1,500 jobs and Walsh said the site will increase city taxes by $67 million over the next 25 years.

According to GE, its new campus “reflects the company’s digital transformation while paying tribute to its industrial roots.”

Construction is already occurring at the site and GE estimates that 800 employees in addition to collaborators from start-ups will eventually work out of its campus.

Ann Klee, the GE vice president who is overseeing the company’s move from Connecticut to Massachusetts, said GE “loved (the Fort Point location) at first sight” and said Boston was a good fit for the company.

“It was the obvious choice, Boston offers so much,” Klee said. “A great innovation ecosystem, a huge talent pool, great leadership, wonderful quality of life, great airport — it was the perfect choice for GE.”

GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt said, “What we’re bringing here together is one of the country’s oldest companies, in GE, has moved its headquarters to one of the country’s oldest cities, in Boston, for the purpose of creating the future.”

Working under the code name “Project Plum,” Baker, Walsh, Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash, Boston Chief of Economic Development John Barros and others lured GE from its sprawling suburban campus in Fairfield, Conn. in 2015 after the company became unhappy with that state’s corporate tax policies. GE’s move was officially announced in early 2016.

GE cited Boston’s “business ecosystem” as well as access to talent, long-term costs, quality of life for employees and easy connections with other company assets and the world as reasons it chose Boston over other locations for its global headquarters.

Baker said he is proud of the fact that GE “really did believe” that city and state policymakers could work together despite political differences to court the company and help make its move a successful one.

“Having GE, a company which could have gone anywhere it wanted to in the world to locate its corporate headquarters, choose to come here to Boston and Massachusetts was in a some respects a wonderful statement about the work that’s been done by so many people in the public and private sector over the course of several decades to make Massachusetts the kind of place that a company like GE would want to locate,” Baker said.

State and city government officials helped grease the skids for GE by offering up a package worth more than $145 million in financial incentives to entice the company, including $120 million from the state in grants and other programs and up to $25 million over 20 years in property tax relief from Boston.

In addition, the governor’s office said the state offered GE $1 million in workforce training grants, up to $5 million for an innovation center to connect the company with Massachusetts research and higher education institutions and a commitment to support local transportation improvements in the Seaport and assist employees with their relocation to Boston.

As Baker, Walsh, Immelt and Klee celebrated the groundbreaking Monday, a group of about a dozen protesters stood nearby, loudly protesting the use of tax incentives for a $130 billion corporation.

Immelt, who last year bought a Commonwealth Avenue condo listed for $7,995,000, said he is excited for GE’s Boston campus to be up and running, and agreed with Baker’s assessment that GE’s groundbreaking is the latest marker in the city and state’s ascension on the world stage.

“I think Boston should look to the future with great promise and with great optimism,” Immelt said. “I really believe that this town is going to be one of the most important cities in the world and that GE can be part of that renaissance, whether it’s in technology or manufacturing or innovation.”