830 new jobs planned for GE's Appliance Park


by Joe Arnold


Posted on December 14, 2009 at 7:52 PM

Updated Monday, Dec 14 at 9:59 PM

General Electric's legendary Appliance Park in Louisville is bringing good things back to life.  

GE now plans a total investment of nearly $150 million to build two new factories within Appliance Park to build several new energy efficient appliances, which will swell the workforce here by about 17 percent.  It is a remarkable turnaround for this historic and once endangered facility.

Design work on the new washer and dryer starts in January, with washer production set to start in 2012.  As a result of concessions, new union hires will make $13 per hour.  New salaried engineers will earn about $50 per hour.

Announced today, 430 new jobs to manufacture new "high end" and energy efficient washers and dryers.   That's combined with 400 new jobs announced in July to make a hybrid water heater.  The state is kicking in $21.5 million in incentives. The city is expected to provide about $5 million in tax credits.

"Today we declare another victory in the jobs war," said Governor Steve Beshear (D-KY) in an afternoon news conference.

The new appliances are being designed with new federal energy regulations in mind.

"They will incorporate smart grid technology that will enable these products to communicate with utilities, and reduce energy demand during peak usage times," explained GE's Dirk Bowman, the applicance Manufacturing Leader.

The efficiency of those yet to be designed appliances might be a metaphor for the rapid negotiations for this new round of state and city incentives.  GE first sent its proposal on Wednesday. 

By Friday, the state had reached a tentative agreement, which brings total state incentives this year to $21.5 million.

"This project will pay for itself many times over in terms of the economic impact it will have on the Commonwealth," Beshear said.

"As both this nation and Kentucky struggle to recover from an economic rescession of historic impact, i believe that nothing will do more to speed that process of recovery, than government working with our businesses to create and retain jobs," Beshear continued.

The jobs announcement comes weeks after President Barack Obama's "jobs summit" at the White House, which U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) says perhaps should have been conducted in Louisville.

"This is exactly a model for how to create jobs in this country and something we've tried to do and support with legislation in Congress," Yarmuth said, trumpeting incentives for consumers to buy energy efficient appliances.

Founded in 1952, Appliance Park at one time reached more than 23,000 workers, plummeting to about 4100 iin this decade.   Mayor Jerry Abramson says within the last year and a half, he wasn't sure if it would survive at all.

"Was it going to sell the appliance operation?  Was it going to spin off the appliance operation? Was it going to get out of the appliance operation?" Abramson recalled the dire possibilities.

For a variety of reasons, GE held on to Appliance Park, and once its union workers agreed to a wage freeze and lower wages for new hires, it set the stage for more than 800 new jobs in Louisville.

"Be ready for another phone call," said IUE-CWA local president Jerry Carney.  "Be ready to come back down here again because if there are any jobs out there that we can get ahold of, believe you me my membership is going to do everything they can do to secure those jobs for coming in here to Louisville KY,"  Carney said to applause.

Bowman called Carney's union leadership "courageous," in leading the initiative to agree to concessions.

"Production workers, employees who are working shoulder to shoulder with us as we move down this new path, we are really on a roll.  and I think let's keep working together and keep it going," Bowman continued.