Dogged protesters who say General Electric is getting unfair benefits from the state attended a groundbreaking ceremony for GE's new Boston headquarters on Monday morning.
Mayor Marty Walsh and Gov. Charlie Baker joined General Electric executives for the ground-breaking ceremony at the site of the company’s new soon-to-be headquarters, called Innovation Point.
But behind a nearby fence blocked from view by signs decorated with renderings of the new development, protesters opposed to the project tried to lift their placards and signs for Walsh, Baker and GE to see.
“I think they heard us. I think we broke through while they were trying to talk about all the wonderful things they're doing when the state of Massachusetts is facing a large budget shortfall,” said Eli Gerzon of the Make GE Pay Coalition.
“Schools are getting cut, vital services are being cut, but were giving hundreds of millions of dollars and free rent to GE,” he said. “There’s a lot of people in Boston and all of Massachusetts who could really use help with housing. GE, one of the most profitable corporations in the world, does not need it.”
Innovation Point will be located on Necco Court between South Station and the Seaport District. The groundbreaking comes just over a year after the GE move was first announced. The company began searching for a new home after lawmakers in Connecticut, where it’s previous headquarters were located, passed a budget that increased taxes by $1.2 billion over two years.
That move drew protest from some Connecticut-based corporations, prompting GE to relocate, but the GE move has also drawn protest from some who believe Boston lured the business with perks.
The deal came with a reported $145 million in incentives, including $120 million from the state for building expenses and $25 million from the state for property tax relief when it was first announced in March 2016. It also included a provision potentially allowing GE access to the Fort Point building rent-free for 20 years.
Officials spoke about how the groundbreaking symbolized Boston’s transformation over recent years to an innovation hub.
"Having GE, a company which could have gone anywhere it wanted to in the world to locate its corporate headquarters, choose to come here to Boston and Massachusetts was in a some respects a wonderful statement about the work that's been done by so many people in the public and private sector over the course of several decades to make Massachusetts the kind of place that a company like GE would want to locate," Baker said.
The campus will be on 2.4 acres of land along the waterfront. Construction is expected to generate 1,500 jobs and the new site will increase city taxes by $67 million over the next 25 years, Walsh said.
State House News Service and Derek Kouyoumjian contributed to this report.