At a welcome party for General Electric Monday night in the top floor of a State Street high-rise, the focus was on both Boston’s past and its future.
The company will bring new jobs, millions in revenue and help elevate the city’s status in the global innovation economy, GE CEO Jeff Immelt, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Gov. Charlie Baker said on a press conference stage – a stance all three have already taken in past speeches and statements.
Immelt also highlighted the possibilities of the city’s growing Seaport district in helping GE — as well as the city’s “culture” and its history of hosting major educational institutions and contributing to advances in technology and medicine — as reasons the company picked Boston.
GE announced this year it intends to leave its Connecticut facility and move to a spot along Boston’s Fort Point Channel. The declaration came after the city offered a package of incentives that includes millions in tax breaks and infrastructure improvements.
Responding to questions about those enticements, Immelt said he believed GE’s presence in the city would have benefits that outweigh those costs to taxpayers — and framed those funds as an investment in GE’s promises.
“I think they took a bet on the GE team,” Immelt said. “My colleagues and myself are going to be dedicated to prove them right.”
Walsh also defended those incentives, saying GE’s move to a 300,000 square foot headquarters in Fort Point would lead to more tax revenues from the parcel of land. He also said a portion of a deal struck with the company that would allow it to use the space rent-free for up to 20 years would be a “net positive for our city.”
“These have been warehouses for many years with limited productivity and taxes in the low six-figures,” Walsh said. “They were not moving forward until General Electric knocked on our door.”
Walsh said partnerships with GE would have benefits for students in Boston schools and help invigorate technology education for youth in the city. He said one of those partnerships would be with the Madison Park Technical Vocational High School.
Earlier in the day, the company announced $50 million it would contribute over five years, including $25 million for computer science courses at Boston schools.
Meanwhile, scores of protesters on the State Street sidewalk drawing from a coalition of more than 30 local advocacy groups stood in wintry conditions to counter that narrative.