Ohio making pitch for GE headquarters

ATLANTA — The competition to try to poach General Electric from Connecticut appears to be heating up between Georgia, Texas, Ohio, Florida and New York.

GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt opened the possibility of General Electric relocating its headquarters when Connecticut lawmakers passed a budget Immelt said would impose “significant and retroactive tax increases for businesses.”

The recruitment of GE could simply be the industrial conglomerate’s way of attempting to gain leverage against Connecticut lawmakers to alter their planned tax hikes. It’s also ripe to become a bidding war for costly incentives.

People familiar with the matter say GE is seriously considering relocation.

On Tuesday, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that leaders of that city contacted Immelt’s assistant within hours of Immelt informing GE workers that relocation was possible. The Cincinnati area is home to a GE Aviation factory, Immelt is an Ohio native and GE is building an operations center at The Banks, a mixed-use project between the city’s pro sports stadiums that is being steered by Atlanta-based real estate firm Carter.

On Friday, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said Georgia leaders are courting other Connecticut businesses in the wake of GE’s announced search. Speaking to reporters after his quarterly meeting with metro Atlanta CEOs, Reed said that he visited with a group of Connecticut “business leaders” on Thursday. He declined to say who else participated in the meeting, nor did he name the companies involved.

In addition to GE, Reed said, “we’re acting on the 17 headquarters based in Connecticut.”

The 17 companies in the Fortune 500 based in Connecticut include GE, Aetna, United Technologies and Xerox.

“And I will tell you that they’ve been very aggressive in reaching out,” the mayor added.

Georgia and other states have openly discussed recruiting GE, a rarity in the normally secretive world of economic development.

The global conglomerate has significant ties in Georgia, including more than 5,000 workers in several GE divisions. GE Energy Management and GE Power Generation Services are based in Georgia. John Rice, a vice chairman and chief of global operations, has a condo in Buckhead.

How many jobs might be involved if the headquarters is at play isn’t clear. It’s likely that any formal recruitment would turn into a bidding war and include a heavy dose of state and local financial incentives, such as grants and tax credits related to job creation.

A top economic development official in Tampa said they were “watching closely what happens in Connecticut and engaging” GE and fellow Connecticut Fortune 500 company Aetna “as appropriate,” according to the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

On Wednesday, Hearst Connecticut Media Group reported that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott had reached out to Immelt in a letter. In the June 10 missive, Abbott touted his state’s recent $3.8 billion tax cut as part of a pitch about the Lone Star State’s business friendliness. Abbott even hand-wrote: “Come to Texas!” at the bottom of the one-page letter.

Also, an Empire State official has contacted the company about returning to its headquarters to New York, where the company was founded, according to a report in Capital New York.

Of course, the firm also has deep roots in Connecticut, where it employees more than 5,700 people, and the governor there has said the legislature may reconvene on the budget matter.

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