GE to Invest $432M to Make Green 'Fridges, Boost Jobs

GE to Invest $432M to Make Green 'Fridges, Boost Jobs

General Electric Company plans to invest $432 million in the next four years to establish four design and manufacturing centers for energy efficient refrigerators in the U.S. and create 500 jobs in the process.

The plans are intended to inject new life into the company's appliances business and enable the firm's U.S. factories to be more competitive in the global arena.

With the moves outlined Monday, GE's total planned investment in its appliances unit will come to more than $1 billion over a five-year period spanning 2009 to 2014 and create about 1,300 jobs.

"With Lean manufacturing and advanced design, we believe that American workers can compete with any in the world," said GE Home & Business Solutions President and CEO Charlene Begley in a statement. GE Appliances is part of home and business solutions.

Begley, as well as GE Appliances & Lighting President and CEO James P.Campbell, praised employees and union leaders yesterday for agreeing to "innovative wage agreements that further increase the competitiveness of these plants" and make the company's plans possible.

The four facilities chosen to house GE's new "refrigeration design and manufacturing centers of excellence" include a plant in Bloomington, Ind., that had been targeted for closure. New jobs at the plants will pay about $13 an hour, instead of in the mid $20-range, with full benefits, Campbell said.

Besides Bloomington, which will focus on side-by-side refrigerators, the other plants are in:

  • GE's Appliance Park in Louisville, Ky., which will become the center for bottom-freezer refrigerators, the third new product platform announced for that facility in the past year. The two others are the GeoSpring Hybrid Water Heater and a new frontload washer and dryer.
  • Decatur, Ala., where top-freezer refrigerators are made and a transition is underway to a new more environmentally friendly insulation process, will be the center for that model and for green manufacturing.
  • Selmer, Tenn., the home of the Monogram Refrigeration Operation LLC, will redesign the built-in refrigeration line made at the facility and will produce a new configuration for the high-end market.

According to GE, all the new products are being designed to meet 2014 Energy Star standards for efficiency and most will incorporate smart-grid technology that enable users to manage energy consumption and, in regions where dynamic pricing is in place, manage utility costs. Products being redesigned in Louisville, Bloomington and Decatur will be made with a new greener foam insulating process, which is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the plants by 90 percent or 687,000 metric tons per year.

"These products are really green products," said Campbell, who added that the company's moves today are expected not only transform its appliances business but also place GE in a greater position of strength when the market picks up.

While GE's appliances business will be profitable this year and next, Campbell said, the industry overall is expected to manufacture some 38 million units this year, compared to about 47 million in 2006.

With the establishment of the design and manufacturing centers, GE will have the highest percentage of U.S.-made refrigerators among full-line appliance makers, the company said.

At the close of the third quarter this year, GE's U.S.-based jobs in appliances, excluding lighting, came to about 9,590. Appliance jobs outside the U.S. numbered about 680. The jobs planned through 2014 would increase the U.S. job tally by more than 13 percent. GE expects to receive about $78 million in tax breaks and other incentives as a result of its $1 billion investment in its appliances business.

Image courtesy of GE.