February 13, 2017

Leadership in Innovation Brings GE to Boston

Sara Reich, Multimedia Fellow

GE wanted to relocate from its Connecticut headquarters, seeking an exciting new business environment. After months of searching, the industrial giant announced in January that it will call Boston its new home.

Boston beat cities like New York and Providence for good reason: CEO Jeffrey Immelt recognized it as a hub for innovation and technology. With a high concentration of universities and tech companies in the city, a move to Boston aligns with GE’s goal to shift away from industrial production in favor of software – an effort that is already well underway with the company now incorporating sensors and digital analytics tools into equipment to make “smarter” machines. GE hopes to be a top 10 software production company by 2020, and it needs a thriving tech environment like Boston to do it.

After a full move to the Seaport District in 2018, GE will be the largest publicly-traded company in Massachusetts. This not only means the creation of 800 new jobs in the state – 600 of which will be tech-oriented –  but also the continued growth of Boston’s tech space as more companies are drawn to the city.

GE’s move to Boston could also significantly impact the vibrant space for cleantech companies in the Commonwealth. GE already has energy-efficiency initiatives, and there is now potential for the company to do more with energy by partnering with the many ongoing efforts in Massachusetts. A big example of this is GE’s clean energy startup, Current, which will also take up residence in Boston. Many in the clean energy industry, including MassCEC’s interim CEO Stephen Pike, think that Current’s move to Boston is just as important as that of its parent company. This already increased attention to the city’s flourishing cleantech sector is good news for clean energy startups and for small businesses looking to expand their networks and build relationships with larger technology companies.

We’ll have to wait and see if Massachusetts-based clean energy companies reap the benefits of GE’s relocation, but for the time being it would be hard to call the company’s move a bad idea: with a booming technology sector, there will be no shortage of talented innovators for GE in Boston.