Friday, January 15, 2016

Orders from Headquarters? GE re-lo-ing to Boston.

The big news - make that BIG NEWS - in Boston this week is that GE is bringing good things, if not to life, then to Boston. What it's bringing is corporate headquarters, which - employment-wise - is not actually that big a deal. You'd think that HQ of the 9th largest company in the world would have a larger headcount than 800. 

But we'll take it. They're good jobs - high tech and nerdy. And, if you believe the multiplier numbers being thrown around, each one of them is going to result in twice as many jobs, quadruple the number of jobs, an order of magnitude more...

I don't know in what fantasy world these multipliers work, but my guess is that plunking 800 more workers into the Seaport area is not going to result in all that many new subshops or coffee vendors opening. Or that 800 workers and their families moving into new Seaport condos and/or dispersed among the Boston suburbs are going to mean a lot more hairdressers. 

Anyway, I haven't looked too closely - nor will I - at the concessions that the city and state had to put out there in order close the deal. The package is supposed to be $145M - $120M from the Commonwealth (some going for infrastructure improvements that will provide general benefits), and $25M from Boston. We will, of course, get it back.

Blah, blah, blah.

At least it makes more sense than funding a stadium for an NFL team, or offering big bucks to movie makers so that they'll make a film that takes place in Boston in Boston.  These always seem more like vanity-ego projects. "Everyone" wants to live in a "major league town". And "everyone" likes seeing their home town on the big screen. (Hell, it's actually more fun to see your home town faked on the big screen, so you can sit there and go, 'hey, that's not Boston.' And it's even more fun, in an embarrasing kind of way, when your actual home town (as in land of your birth, as in Worcester) is used as the locale for a movie (American Hustle). Downtown was deemed a pretty good replica of Camden, NJ, in the 1970's.

But GE is business. And that's good.

What's truly exciting about this is that it reinforces Boston's "brand" (gag! apologies... I hate that word) as an innovation hub, as a place where techies want to be, as an area on the digital leading edge. While we could still use some good, old-fashioned blue collar jobs in these parts - Boston was just named the American city with the greatest proportional economic disparity between the bottom and the top - I'd much rather be home to the jobs of the future than to be worrying about whether the local chicken plucking factory was going to relocate to Mexico. (We still have to figure out what everyone who's not a techie or bio-techie is going to do for a living, other than drive for Uber...)

And, of course, Jack Welch, of GE fame, is a native (North Shore, anyway) and a neighbor. (Not that we run in the same circles, but I think he still lives up the street from me. Without breaking any HIPAA laws, I wil say that I did see him a couple of years ago over at MGH, where he was checking in for an appointment at the same time my husband was. Truly, I wouldn't even have noticed - we had more important things to focus on - but there was a certain rhythm when people checked in, and part of that ryhthm was giving their birthdate. My ears picked up on old Jack because he neglected to give his year of birth, just the month/day. So I looked up to see who was so vain, and lo and behold...) 

Plus it's something of a homecoming of sorts. GE has local roots, since it came out of a merger between Thomas Edison's outfit and a local entity, the Thomson-Houston Electric Company of Lynn, Massachusetts. There's still a GE division - aviation stuff - in Lynn. It's a train stop on the line I take to my sister's, and it always seems at least semi-abandoned. But I do know someone whose aviation engineer son works there.

Anyway, welcome GE. 

We're provincial and pokey enough to get a kick out of having such a big time company calling our little town home.

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