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GE Brings Things To Life In Boston; Lights Out In Connecticut

General Electric will move from Connecticut to Boston for tax breaks and other advantages.
Gene J. Puskar
General Electric will move from Connecticut to Boston for tax breaks and other advantages.

Fair to say this was a brilliant day for Boston.

General Electric Co. announced on Wednesday that it will be moving its headquarters from Fairfield, Conn., to Boston, starting this summer.

That decision makes Boston the winner of an intense competition among dozens of cities — all hoping to become the hometown of one of the world's largest companies.

GE has been based on a 68-acre suburban campus in Fairfield since 1974. Its new home will be built in Boston's Seaport District, with the full move to be completed by 2018.

The $130 billion global industrial giant said it has been weighing a headquarters move for more than three years. That search may have become more urgent after a 2015 state budget raised taxes on corporations.

GE settled on Boston after being offered a massive package of tax breaks and incentives. The deal included $120 million from the state through grants and other programs, and up to $25 million in property tax relief from the city, according to a joint statement from Gov. Charlie Baker and Mayor Marty Walsh's offices.

In exchange for incentives, the city will get an infusion of about 200 corporate staffers and 600 digital industrial product managers, designers and developers.

Although the tax breaks are generous, they were not the key reasons for GE's choice of Boston.

GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt said the company was looking for "an ecosystem that shares our aspirations. Greater Boston is home to 55 colleges and universities. Massachusetts spends more on research & development than any other region in the world, and Boston attracts a diverse, technologically fluent workforce."

GE also said Boston offered "connections with the world." That can be read as: Logan International Airport. Unlike Fairfield, Boston offers nonstop flights to London, Frankfurt, Paris, Zurich, Hong Kong, Dubai, Tokyo, Santiago and many other global destinations.

New York officials had hoped to attract GE, but the company said it not only is pulling out of Connecticut but will be selling its offices at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in Manhattan. Connecticut officials had hoped to avoid losing the headquarters of a major employer. But increasingly, suburban office parks are losing out to urban environments that are more attractive to young, well-educated workers.

Boston's advantages showed up in another way on Wednesday. The Federal Reserve gave it a pat on the back in its Beige Book, an eight-times-a-year report on growth.

The Beige Book described Boston's economic activity as "upbeat."

Fed researchers concluded that while the New York and Kansas City regions were essentially flat, other parts of the country were reporting growth and Boston was particularly healthy. For example, the report said "office leasing demand remains robust in Boston [but] weak in Hartford."

Ouch. Tough day for Connecticut.

"This hurts," Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy said at a news conference called to respond to the GE announcement. "You win some and you lose some. Luckily we've won more than we've lost."

Malloy said the state plans to work harder to upgrade transportation infrastructure and the higher education system.

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Marilyn Geewax is a contributor to NPR.