GE moves HQ to Boston as it continues digital transformation

General Electric is moving its headquarters to an as-yet undisclosed site in Boston, and it’s been suggested it could see other advanced manufacturers relocate to the city.

GE, which kept a head office at Fairfield, Connecticut since 1974, will have 200 corporate staff at the site, with 600 other employees mostly ‘“digital industrial product managers, designers and developers” in a variety of disciplines including data analysis, life sciences and robotics’ reports The New York Times.

The company threatened to relocate in June last year over increased corporate taxes in Connecticut. It has been wooed by states including Texas, Rhode Island, Georgia and New York. Massachusetts won out, offering $US 145 million worth of incentives (including $US 25 million in property tax breaks). NY’s offer was larger still, reports The Wall Street Journal, including the offer of state-owned property for offices.

In a gushing editorial, one Boston Globe writer called the news “better than hosting the Olympics”, and would help elevate Boston to Silicon Valley status when people thought of cities that were building the future.

Boston is home to 55 colleges and universities, and 15 of the world's top 20 biotech companies have a presence in the city. It includes world-class research centres such as Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Professor Michael Porter of Harvard University, who once taught GE CEO Jeff Immelt, said “this is a major milestone” of the move.

“This is going to feed onto itself. This is going to attract other companies.”

GE is believed to be considering a move to the Seaport district.

Some have interpreted the move as part of GE’s attempt to remake its image and its business to suit the digital era. This has included opening a software business in San Ramon in 2011, in the San Francisco Bay area, which now employs around 2,000.

It has increasingly added a digital emphasis to its industrial offerings, and last year Immelt pledged to make GE a “top 20 software company” by 2020.