GENERAL ELECTRIC: TO THE SEAPORT DISTRICT

 

bos-Necco-building

^ site of GE’s new 800-employee world headquarters

—- —- —-

On April 4th — so Governor Baker’s staff has announced — he and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh will join CEO Jeffrey Immelt at a huge press conference at which the three leaders will “unveil more details” of General Electric’s headquarters move to Boston. The entire leadership team of GE will be there, some 20 executives, to star in what is sure to be the biggest Boston news event of the year.

We already know some of the move’s facts. Headquarters for GE will occupy Necco’s two former factory buildings, one of them directly fronting Fort Point Channel, on the Seaport side. There will be plenty of parking adjacent; and, as about 800 people will work there, parking will be needed.

Pending the upcoming press conference — which I hope to attend — we already do know much about the move. First, it will increase traffic in that already busy commercial quadrant of the City. Second, it will put a whole lot of hungry, well-paid GE’rs at the doorsteps of some of the City’s priciest and trendiest bistros, which means plenty of lucrative bartender jobs for those who can tend. Third, it promises a whole host of newly formed business, from eateries to boutiques and more, to serve the leaders of those 800 richly compensated GE folk.

If there were any doubt about the primacy of the Seaport Disrtr8ict, going forward to that 2030 date that Mayor Walsh imagines, cast them aside now. GE in the Seaport assures the area’s success as the pinnacle of Boston prosperity, of innovation, of commerce and, likely, of hot-hot-hot real estate prices. One almost salivates at the real estate tax numbers that will flow into the City’s treasury every year now, after the many tax breaks given by the Mayor expire.

There are plenty of kvetchers out there, on social media of course, who complain that GE’s move establishes that in Boston the prosperous get more prosperity and the rest of us get the rest. To these voices it’s some sort of scheme in which the little people count for…little. Dark plots are talked of; nefarious conspiracies; “displacement’ and fat cats to the fore. One shrugs a shoulder at such talk. How can it be in any way bad for Boston to become GE’s headquarters home ?

One question can be asked ; will the newly arriving prosperity, innovation, and dynamism raise the incomes of the rest of us ? I do not see why not. There’s a good chance that Massachusetts will adopt a $15/hour minimum wage, and that the GE 800, and the businesses that’s serve them, will feel enough greenbacked paper to bank many enterprises and hard working bank accounts. And if, in turn, the burst of big money shock waves local home prices — and rents — the only question that can possibly give trouble is, will we earn enough dollars to pay for them ?

But that would be a challenge to today’s Boston even had GE not decided to settle here. Boston has become an enterprise beehive already. That isn’t going to reverse, nor would it have been likely to slack off had GE moved elsewhere. And is our City worse off for hosting one of the hugest prosperity booms any US city has seen in 30 years ? I recall only too well the Boston of 40 years ago, in which renters paid $ 50 to $ 150 a month, homes sold for $ 3,000 to $ 25,000 if they sold at all, and Downtown after 5.30 pm was an empty wasteland of unused buildings worth practically nothing.

No doubt that an unused city is cheap to live in, and very stable, because if nothing is going on there is no reason for anyone to come. Boston in 1970 was like that. Insular ethnic communities did business inside themselves and socially and politically distrusted all the other insular communities. Each had its folklore, and many, at social events, had an edge of anger about them that occasionally burst out in bucket of blood fights at men-only taverns. Some folks today are wont to romanticize those days. I do not. The consequences of that state of a city’s soul became all too clear during the “busing crisis” of 1974-76.

Today’s Boston is far from socially perfect, but it’s eight thousand times more diverse, more outgoing, more intermixed, safer, far less on edge, and yes, much more expensive — but hugely more exciting — than the city I knew as a young gun. GE fits right in. I for one welcome it.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

Author: hereandsphere

Here and Sphere is an online journal of news, opinion, reviews, advice, & bits n' pieces of everything else - from HERE to SPHERE...... Co-founded by Michael Freedberg, a long-time Boston Phoenix journalist, and Heather Cornell, a South Coast Massachusetts columnist and editor.

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