The competition to try to poach General Electric from Connecticut appears to be heating up.
Georgia has been joined by Texas, Ohio, Florida, New York and other states reportedly wooing General Electric executives to relocate their headquarters.
GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt opened the possibility of leaving Connecticut last week when lawmakers there passed a budget Immelt said would impose “significant and retroactive tax increases for businesses.”
And Georgia leaders immediately pounced.
The recruitment of GE could simply be the industrial conglomerate’s way of attempting to gain leverage against Connecticut lawmakers to alter their planned tax hikes. Georgia has been a pawn in corporate-state disputes before, showing interest that helped companies gain leverage.
But people familiar with the matter say GE is seriously considering relocation. Were Georgia to prevail it would arguably be the state’s biggest relocation win since UPS moved here in the early 1990s.
Georgia and other states have openly discussed recruiting the company, a rarity in the normally secretive world of economic development.
In an interview this week, Deal said he thinks “a company as large as GE is serious when they start publicly talking about these things.”
“They can do all of the pressure they need behind the scenes,” he said. “They don’t have to go public in order to put pressure. And it appears they are at the point of being very serious in their considerations that they may relocate and if they are we want to make sure we make the good pitch for Georgia.”
The global conglomerate has significant ties in Georgia, including more than 5,000 workers in several GE divisions. GE Energy Management and GE Power Generation Services are based in Georgia.
John Rice, who heads GE’s global operations, owns a Buckhead condo and was a one-time champion of the late Beverly Hall, the former superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools.
How many jobs might be involved if the headquarters is at play isn’t clear. It’s likely that any formal recruitment would turn into a bidding war and include a heavy dose of state and local financial incentives such as grants and tax credits related to job creation.
On Tuesday, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that leaders of that city contacted Immelt’s assistant within hours of Immelt informing GE workers that relocation was possible. The Cincinnati area is home to a GE Aviation factory, Immelt is an Ohio native and GE is building an operations center at The Banks, a mixed-use project between the city’s pro sports stadiums that is being steered by Atlanta-based real estate firm Carter.
A top economic development official in Tampa said they were “watching closely what happens in Connecticut and engaging” GE and fellow Connecticut Fortune 500 company Aetna “as appropriate,” according to the Tampa Bay Business Journal.
On Wednesday, Hearst Connecticut Media Group reported that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott had reached out to Immelt in a letter. In the June 10 missive, Abbott touted his state’s recent $3.8 billion tax cut as part of a pitch about the Lone Star State’s business friendliness. Abbott even hand-wrote: “Come to Texas!” at the bottom of the one-page letter.
Also, an Empire State official has contacted the company about returning its headquarters to New York, where the company was founded, according to a report in Capital New York.
Of course, the firm also has deep roots in Connecticut, where it employees more than 5,700 people, and the governor there has said the legislature may reconvene on the budget matter.
Editor’s Note: This post was written by staff writers J. Scott Trubey and Greg Bluestein