SCHENECTADY — General Electric, formed in Schenectady in 1892 to build electrical equipment, has stopped calling the city the headquarters of its GE Power business.
As recently as 2017, when the multinational conglomerate marked its 125th year, it referred to the campus at the foot of Erie Boulevard as the headquarters of GE Power.
On Monday, in response to a query by The Daily Gazette, it said via email:
“Schenectady is one of the leading locations for GE Power. Internally, we do not use the word ‘headquarters’ to designate any of our locations. GE Power is a global business with a footprint across the globe. As such, we don’t have one single ‘headquarter’ location. Schenectady, where we have a proud history and longstanding presence, remains one of our important locations.”
GE would not say if there were any practical changes coming in the wake of the semantic shift, such as a relocation of executive personnel.
Since GE Power CEO Steve Bolze resigned in June 2017, his successor, Russell Stokes, has worked out of Atlanta. More recently, GE Power has moved its public relations office to Atlanta, as well.
There already is some overlap between the two cities. General Electric moved GE Power’s headquarters from Schenectady to Atlanta in 2001 and back to Schenectady in 2012. Stokes was president of Atlanta-based GE Energy Connections before taking over as CEO of GE Power in 2017, and Energy Connections became part of Power after Stokes took over.
GE Power is under strong pressure to reduce costs, improve performance and increase profitability, as it helps drag down financial results of General Electric, one of the worst-performing American blue-chip companies. The value of its stock is less than half its year-ago level.
GE ordered its Power business last autumn to cut $1 billion in costs, shrink its array of facilities and eliminate 12,000 jobs. In April, GE said its Power business had cut $354 million in the first quarter, closed 17 sites, and made progress in the workforce reductions, a handful of which have come in Schenectady. It also said it expected orders for new products to continue to be soft a while longer.
The latest shoe to drop was in Salem, Virginia, a Roanoke suburb where GE Power makes cabinetry hardware and circuit boards.
On Friday, the company announced it would end manufacturing there within two years and eliminate all production jobs, though it would maintain more than 200 professionals working for GE’s Power, Renewable Energy and Baker Hughes businesses.
Vicky Hurley, president of IUE-CWA Local 82161, told The Daily Gazette on Monday that all 221 of her local’s members would lose their jobs if the shutdown goes through. As per its contract with the union, GE offered it the chance to negotiate cost savings to avoid the shutdown. Hurley said the union would do this.
“I know that it may very well not work, but we don’t give up trying until the end,” she said.
At the once-bustling GE capacitor plant in Fort Edward, New York, IUE Local 332 had 17 meetings with the company in 2013 during its 60-day period but was unable to dissuade GE from moving the last 200 jobs to a Florida facility.
Hurley noted that her local in 2012 agreed to a giveback that allowed GE to hire new workers for the Salem factory at a lower wage. GE quickly boosted the hourly workforce from roughly 270 to about 370, she said, but in recent years began cutting back again.
She said the company told union members at a meeting Friday that at least some of the jobs would be going to India.
The Roanoke Times reported that the Salem factory opened in 1955 with 2,500 workers and later peaked at 3,500.
GE has about 4,000 employees at its Schenectady/Rotterdam plant, after cutting the workforce by hundreds at a time in the mid to late 20th century. It also has about 2,000 at its Niskayuna research headquarters.