It’s official: GE is open for business in Boston
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Say goodbye to the free parking, big offices, and corporate cafeteria. Say hello to the MBTA, standing desks, and more restaurants within walking distance than you can count.
About 175 General Electric Co. employees traded the Merritt Parkway for the Mass. Pike on Monday as the industrial giant formally established Boston as its headquarters city.
Many more employees, however, are staying back in Connecticut. Spokeswoman Sue Bishop said nearly 600 people at the company's sprawling Fairfield campus are instead moving to an office in nearby Norwalk in waves through the end of October. GE has put the 67-acre Fairfield property up for sale.
Governor Charlie Baker and Mayor Martin J. Walsh joined GE chief executive Jeff Immelt to welcome employees at the new offices at 33-41 Farnsworth St. in South Boston's Fort Point section on Monday.
This is just an interim step: The company is in the midst of pushing designs for a three-building campus off nearby Necco Court through the city's permitting process and expects to move there in 2018.
In the meantime, the executives who moved to Boston will have to squeeze into a much smaller headquarters. The two buildings at GE's Fairfield campus totaled 495,000 square feet. But here on Farnsworth, GE will only occupy about 66,000 square feet over several floors, Bishop said, and about one-third of that space is still being renovated.
The closeness of the quarters is intentional. Immelt told employees on Monday that he wants them to do things differently — a reference to his efforts to prod workers to move more quickly, to collaborate more with outside players.
"It's not just a physical move," Bishop said. "The intention is to use some of the physical space to drive a cultural change."
Bishop said GE will likely employ 300 to 350 people in the Farnsworth Street space by the end of the year — a group that will include about 100 people from Current, GE's new lighting and energy division, as well as software developers who work with GE's digital arm. Much of the space had most recently been occupied by software firm Bullhorn, which decamped for the Financial District this year.
GE expects to increase that number to 800 by the end of 2018, assuming its new headquarters opens as planned that year. GE will first occupy two old brick buildings there after they are renovated, while a new structure will be built that will overlook the Fort Point Channel. Combined, the space in the three buildings will total about 390,000 square feet over two acres.
To help persuade GE to pick Boston for its new headquarters in January, the Baker administration offered as much as $120 million in state infrastructure grant funds for the new Necco Court complex. City officials, meanwhile, promised up to $25 million in property tax relief over 20 years.
City and state officials also offered "concierge relocation services," including a "City Hall To Go" truck to help provide government services for GE employees such as transit passes and municipal parking permits. GE hadn't yet arranged for the truck's arrival, Bishop said, but the company still plans to take the local officials up on that offer.