In a move that seemed to symbolize General Electric’s increased commitment to its operations in Schenectady County, GE Energy decided to move its annual Steam Turbine & Generator Users Conference from Atlanta to Albany this week.
The decision to relocate the conference illustrates GE’s greater level of local investment, which has included the creation of about 750 new jobs over the last year and major investments in new construction, but it may also have highlighted the lack of a large-scale hotel and convention center venue within Schenectady itself.
Proctors Chief Executive Officer Philip Morris said the new 436-seat GE Theatre next to Proctors has helped to host 100 days worth of conferences over the past year, ranging in size from 20 people to more than 300 guests over a period of days. He said he’s seen an increasing number of conferences express interest in Proctors, book events there and express interest in returning.
“I imagine for some meetings our facility is not perfect because it’s not in a hotel. A hotel would handle all food and that kind of stuff, now we’re willing to help with those things but we’re not a restaurant,” Morris said. “I know there are a lot of conferences that wouldn’t come here or look at us because we’re not a fully incorporated guest facility.”
Metroplex Chairman Ray Gillen said the largest hotel in the city of Schenectady is the Holiday Inn located on Nott Terrace Street. According to the Holiday Inn’s Web site that facility can accommodate 184 guests, 44 of them in executive level rooms.
The Albany Crown Plaza’s Web site says it has 384 guest rooms.
According to GE, about 200 of its customers attended the annual conference as well as 160 GE employees, some from out of town. Attendees toured GE’s steam turbine production facilities within its Erie Boulevard campus in Schenectady and visited the GE Global Research headquarters in Niskayuna.
Gillen said he thinks the real story to come out of the conference is GE’s renewed commitment to Schenectady. He said the Schenectady County Chamber of Commerce has been working on marketing Schenectady specifically for conferences.
“We’re creating a nice steady business for meetings … that GE thing could have been accommodated over here quite nicely,” Gillen said.
According to a brochure created by the chamber, Schenectady County has 75,000 square feet of meeting space, 800 hotel and motel rooms, 100 restaurants and “… a walkable downtown district that is home to the 2,700-seat Historic Proctors Theatre, a 450-seat GE Black Box Theater, a multiplex movie theatre and numerous restaurants and nightspots.”