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General Electric

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

General Electric Company
Traded as
FoundedApril 15, 1892; 126 years ago (1892-04-15), in Schenectady, New York, United States
HeadquartersBoston, Massachusetts, United States
Area served
Key people
RevenueDecrease US$ 122.09 billion (2017)
Decrease US$ -8.79 billion (2017)
Decrease US$ -5.79 billion (2017)
Total assetsIncrease US$ 377.95 billion (2017)
Total equityDecrease US$ 64.26 billion (2017)
Number of employees
313,000 (2017)
Footnotes / references

General Electric Company (GE) is an American multinational conglomerate incorporated in New York and headquartered in Boston. As of 2018, the company operates through the following segments: aviation, healthcare, power, renewable energy, digital, additive manufacturing, venture capital and finance, lighting, transportation, and oil and gas.[2][3]

In 2018, GE ranked among the Fortune 500 as the 18th-largest firm in the U.S. by gross revenue.[4] In 2011, GE ranked among the Fortune 20 as the 14th-most profitable company.[5] As of 2012, the company was listed as the fourth-largest in the world among the Forbes Global 2000, further metrics being taken into account.[6] Two employees of GE have been awarded the Nobel Prize: Irving Langmuir in 1932 and Ivar Giaever in 1973.[7]



General Electric in Schenectady, NY, aerial view, 1896
General Electric in Schenectady, NY, aerial view, 1896
Plan of Schenectady plant, 1896[8]
Plan of Schenectady plant, 1896[8]
General Electric Building at 570 Lexington Avenue, New York
General Electric Building at 570 Lexington Avenue, New York

During 1889, Thomas Edison had business interests in many electricity-related companies including Edison Lamp Company, a lamp manufacturer in East Newark, New Jersey; Edison Machine Works, a manufacturer of dynamos and large electric motors in Schenectady, New York; Bergmann & Company, a manufacturer of electric lighting fixtures, sockets, and other electric lighting devices; and Edison Electric Light Company, the patent-holding company and the financial arm backed by J.P. Morgan and the Vanderbilt family for Edison's lighting experiments.[9]

In 1889, Drexel, Morgan & Co., a company founded by J.P. Morgan and Anthony J. Drexel, financed Edison's research and helped merge those companies under one corporation to form Edison General Electric Company, which was incorporated in New York on April 24, 1889. The new company also acquired Sprague Electric Railway & Motor Company in the same year.[10][11]

In 1880, Gerald Waldo Hart formed the American Electric Company of New Britain, Connecticut, which merged a few years later with Thomson-Houston Electric Company, led by Charles Coffin. In 1887, Hart left to become superintendent of the Edison Electric Company of Kansas City, Missouri.[12] General Electric was formed through the 1892 merger of Edison General Electric Company of Schenectady, New York, and Thomson-Houston Electric Company of Lynn, Massachusetts, with the support of Drexel, Morgan & Co.[11] Both plants continue to operate under the GE banner to this day.[13] The company was incorporated in New York, with the Schenectady plant used as headquarters for many years thereafter. Around the same time, General Electric's Canadian counterpart, Canadian General Electric, was formed.[14]

Public company

In 1896, General Electric was one of the original 12 companies listed on the newly formed Dow Jones Industrial Average,[15] where it remained a part of the index for 122 years, though not continuously.[16]

1945 magazine ad for an FM radio with pictures of Miranda
Carmen Miranda in a 1945 advertisement for a General Electric FM radio in The Saturday Evening Post

In 1911, General Electric absorbed the National Electric Lamp Association (NELA) into its lighting business. GE established its lighting division headquarters at Nela Park in East Cleveland, Ohio. The lighting division has since remained in the same location.[17]


Owen D. Young, through GE, founded the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) in 1919, after purchasing the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America. He aimed to expand international radio communications. GE used RCA as its retail arm for radio sales.[18] In 1926, RCA co-founded the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), which built two radio broadcasting networks. In 1930, General Electric was charged with antitrust violations and decided to divest itself of RCA.[19]


In 1927, Ernst Alexanderson of GE made the first demonstration of his television broadcasts[20] at his General Electric Realty Plot home at 1132 Adams Rd, Schenectady, New York. On January 13, 1928, he made what was said to be the first broadcast to the public in the United States[20] on GE's W2XAD: the pictures were picked up on 1.5 square inch (9.7 square centimeter) screens in the homes of four GE executives. The sound was broadcast on GE's WGY (AM).[citation needed]

Experimental television station W2XAD evolved into station WRGB which, along with WGY and WGFM (now WRVE), was owned and operated by General Electric until 1983.[21]

Power generation

Led by Sanford Alexander Moss, GE moved into the new field of aircraft turbo superchargers.[citation needed]GE introduced the first superchargers during World War I, and continued to develop them during the interwar period. Superchargers became indispensable in the years immediately prior to World War II. GE supplied 300,000 turbo superchargers for use in fighter and bomber engines. This work led the U.S. Army Air Corps to select GE to develop the nation's first jet engine during the war.[22] This experience, in turn, made GE a natural selection to develop the Whittle W.1 jet engine that was demonstrated in the United States in 1941.[23] GE ranked ninth among United States corporations in the value of wartime production contracts.[24] Although their early work with Whittle's designs was later handed to Allison Engine Company, GE Aviation emerged as one of the world's largest engine manufacturers, bypassing the British company Rolls-Royce plc.

Some consumers boycotted GE light bulbs, refrigerators and other products in the 1980s and 1990s to protest GE's role in nuclear weapons production.[25]

In 2002, GE acquired the wind power assets of Enron during its bankruptcy proceedings.[26] Enron Wind was the only surviving U.S. manufacturer of large wind turbines at the time, and GE increased engineering and supplies for the Wind Division and doubled the annual sales to $1.2 billion in 2003.[27] It acquired ScanWind in 2009.[28][29]


GE was one of the eight major computer companies of the 1960s along with IBM, Burroughs, NCR, Control Data Corporation, Honeywell, RCA and UNIVAC.[30] GE had a line of general purpose and special purpose computers, including the GE 200, GE 400, and GE 600 series general purpose computers,[30] the GE 4010, GE 4020, and GE 4060 real-time process control computers, and the DATANET-30 and Datanet 355 message switching computers (DATANET-30 and 355 were also used as front end processors for GE mainframe computers). A Datanet 500 computer was designed, but never sold.[31]

In 1962, GE started developing its GECOS (later renamed GCOS) operating system, originally for batch processing, but later extended to timesharing and transaction processing. Versions of GCOS are still in use today. From 1964 to 1969, GE and Bell Laboratories (which soon dropped out) joined with MIT to develop the Multics operating system on the GE 645 mainframe computer. The project took longer than expected and was not a major commercial success, but it demonstrated concepts such as single level store, dynamic linking, hierarchical file system, and ring-oriented security. Active development of Multics continued until 1985.

GE got into computer manufacturing because in the 1950s they were the largest user of computers outside the United States federal government,[30] aside from being the first business in the world to own a computer. Its major appliance manufacturing plant "Appliance Park" was the first non-governmental site to host one.[32] However, in 1970, GE sold its computer division to Honeywell, exiting the computer manufacturing industry,[30] though it retained its timesharing operations for some years afterwards. GE was a major provider of computer time-sharing services, through General Electric Information Services (GEIS, now GXS), offering online computing services that included GEnie.

In 2000 when United Technologies Corp. planned to buy Honeywell, GE made a counter-offer that was approved by Honeywell.[33] On July 3, 2001, the European Union issued a statement that "prohibit the proposed acquisition by General Electric Co. of Honeywell Inc.".[34] The reasons given were it "would create or strengthen dominant positions on several markets and that the remedies proposed by GE were insufficient to resolve the competition concerns resulting from the proposed acquisition of Honeywell."[34]

On June 27, 2014, GE partnered with collaborative design company Quirky to announce its connected LED bulb called Link. The Link bulb is designed to communicate with smartphones and tablets using a mobile app called Wink.[35]

GE Global Operations Center in Downtown Cincinnati, Ohio
GE Global Operations Center in Downtown Cincinnati, Ohio

Acquisitions and divestments

In 1986, GE reacquired RCA, primarily for the NBC television network (also parent of Telemundo Communications Group). The remainder was sold to various companies, including Bertelsmann (Bertelsmann acquired RCA Records) and Thomson SA, which traces its roots to Thomson-Houston, one of the original components of GE.[citation needed] Also in 1986, Kidder, Peabody & Co., a U.S.-based securities firm, was sold to GE and following heavy losses was sold to PaineWebber in 1994.[36]

In 2002, Francisco Partners and Norwest Venture Partners acquired a division of GE called GE Information Systems (GEIS). The new company, named GXS, is based in Gaithersburg, Maryland. GXS is a provider of B2B e-Commerce solutions. GE maintains a minority stake in GXS.[citation needed] Also in 2002, GE Wind Energy was formed when GE bought the wind turbine manufacturing assets of Enron Wind after the Enron scandals.[27][37][26]

In 2004, GE bought 80% of Universal Pictures from Vivendi. Vivendi bought 20% of NBC forming the company NBCUniversal. GE then owned 80% of NBC Universal and Vivendi owned 20%. By January 28, 2011 GE owned 49% and Comcast 51%. On March 19, 2013, Comcast bought GE's shares in NBCU for $16.7 billion.[38] In 2004, GE completed the spin-off of most of its mortgage and life insurance assets into an independent company, Genworth Financial, based in Richmond, Virginia.[39]

Genpact formerly known as GE Capital International Services (GECIS) was established by GE in late 1997 as its captive India-based BPO. GE sold 60% stake in Genpact to General Atlantic and Oak Hill Capital Partners in 2005 and hived off Genpact into an independent business. GE is still a major client to Genpact today, for services in customer service, finance, information technology and analytics.[citation needed]

In May 2007, GE acquired Smiths Aerospace for $4.8 billion.[40] Also in 2007, GE Oil & Gas acquired Vetco Gray for $1.9 billion,[41][42] followed by the acquisition of Hydril Pressure & Control in 2008 for $1.1 billion.[43][44]

GE Plastics was sold in 2008 to SABIC (Saudi Arabia Basic Industries Corporation). In May 2008, GE announced it was exploring options for divesting the bulk of its consumer and industrial business.[citation needed]

On December 3, 2009, it was announced that NBCUniversal would become a joint venture between GE and cable television operator Comcast. Comcast would hold a controlling interest in the company, while GE would retain a 49% stake and would buy out shares owned by Vivendi.[45]

Vivendi would sell its 20% stake in NBCUniversal to GE for US$5.8 billion. Vivendi would sell 7.66% of NBCUniversal to GE for US$2 billion if the GE/Comcast deal was not completed by September 2010 and then sell the remaining 12.34% stake of NBCUniversal to GE for US$3.8 billion when the deal was completed or to the public via an IPO if the deal was not completed.[46][47]

On March 1, 2010, GE announced plans to sell its 20.85% stake in Turkey-based Garanti Bank.[48] In August 2010, GE Healthcare signed a strategic partnership to bring cardiovascular Computed Tomography (CT) technology from start-up Arineta Ltd. of Israel to the hospital market.[49] In October 2010, GE acquired gas engines manufacture Dresser Inc. in a $3 billion deal and also bought a $1.6 billion portfolio of retail credit cards from Citigroup Inc.[50][51] On October 14, 2010, GE announced the acquisition of data migration & SCADA simulation specialists Opal Software.[52] In December 2010, for the second time that year (after the Dresser acquisition), GE bought the oil sector company British Wellstream Holding Plc., an oil pipe maker, for 800 million pounds ($1.3 billion).[53]

In March 2011, GE announced that it had completed the acquisition of privately held Lineage Power Holdings, Inc., from The Gores Group, LLC.[54] In April 2011, GE announced it had completed its purchase of John Wood Plc's Well Support Division for $2.8 billion.[55]

In 2011, GE Capital sold its $2 billion Mexican assets to Santander for $162 million and exit the business in Mexico. Santander additionally assumed the portfolio debts of GE Capital in the country. Following this, GE Capital focused in its core business and shed its non-core assets.[56]

In June 2012, CEO and President of GE Jeff Immelt said that the company would invest ₹3 billion to accelerate its businesses in Karnataka.[57] In October 2012, GE acquired $7 billion worth of bank deposits from Metlife Inc.[58]

In April 2013, GE acquired oilfield pump maker Lufkin Industries for $2.98 billion.[59]

In April 2014, it was announced that GE was in talks to acquire the global power division of French engineering group Alstom for a figure of around $13 billion.[60] A rival joint bid was submitted in June 2014 by Siemens and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) with Siemens seeking to acquire Alstom's gas turbine business for €3.9 billion, and MHI proposing a joint venture in steam turbines, plus a €3.1 billion cash investment. In June 2014 a formal offer from GE worth $17 billion was agreed by the Alstom board. Part of the transaction involved the French government taking a 20% stake in Alstom to help secure France's energy and transport interests and French jobs. A rival offer from Siemens-Mitsubishi Heavy Industries was rejected. The acquisition was expected to be completed in 2015.[61] In October 2014, GE announced it was considering the sale of its Polish banking business Bank BPH.[62]

Later in 2014, General Electric announced plans to open its global operations center in Cincinnati, Ohio.[63] The Global Operations Center opened in October 2016 as home to GE's multifunctional shared services organization. It supports the company's finance/accounting, human resources, information technology, supply chain, legal and commercial operations, and is one of GE's four multifunctional shared services centers worldwide in Pudong, China; Budapest, Hungary; and Monterrey, Mexico.[64]

In April 2015, GE announced its intention to sell off its property portfolio, worth $26.5 billion, to Wells Fargo and The Blackstone Group.[65] It was announced in April 2015 that GE would sell most of its finance unit and return around $90 billion to shareholders as the firm looked to trim down on its holdings and rid itself of its image of a "hybrid" company, working in both banking and manufacturing.[66] In August 2015, GE Capital agreed to sell its Healthcare Financial Services business to Capital One for US$9 billion. The transaction involved US$8.5 billion of loans made to a wide array of sectors including senior housing, hospitals, medical offices, outpatient services, pharmaceuticals and medical devices.[67] Also in August 2015, GE Capital agreed to sell GE Capital Bank's on-line deposit platform to Goldman Sachs. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but the sale included US$8 billion of on-line deposits and another US$8 billion of brokered certificates of deposit. The sale was part of GE's strategic plan to exit the U.S. banking sector and to free itself from tightening banking regulations. GE also aimed to shed its status as a "systematically important financial institution."[68]

In September 2015, GE Capital agreed to sell its transportation-finance unit to Canada's Bank of Montreal. The unit sold had US$8.7 billion (CA$11.5 billion) of assets, 600 employees and 15 offices in the U.S. and Canada. Exact terms of the sale were not disclosed, but the final price would be based on the value of the assets at closing, plus a premium according to the parties.[69] In October 2015, activist investor Nelson Peltz's fund Trian bought a $2.5 billion stake in the company.[70]

In January 2016, Haier Group acquired GE's appliance division for $5.4 billion.[71] In October 2016, GE Renewable Energy agreed to pay €1.5 billion to Doughty Hanson & Co for LM Wind Power during 2017.[72]

At the end of October 2016, it was announced that GE was under negotiations for a deal valued at about $30 billion to combine GE Oil and Gas with Baker Hughes. The transaction would create a publicly-traded entity controlled by GE.[73] It was announced that GE Oil and Gas would sell off its water treatment business as part of its divestment agreement with Baker Hughes.[74] The deal was cleared by the EU in May 2017, and by the DOJ in June 2017.[75][76] The merger agreement was approved by shareholders at the end of June 2017. On July 3, 2017, the transaction was completed and Baker Hughes became a GE company.[77]

In April 2017, GE announced the name of their $200 million corporate headquarters would be "GE Innovation Point". The groundbreaking ceremony for the 2.5-acre, 800-person campus was held on May 8, 2017, and the completion date is expected to be sometime in mid-2019.[78]

In May 2017, GE had signed $15 billion of business deals with Saudi Arabia.[79] Saudi Arabia is one of GE's largest customers.[80]

In September 2017, GE announced the sale of its Industrial Solutions Business to ABB. The deal closed on June 30, 2018.[81][82]


For the fiscal year 2017, General Electric reported losses of US$6.2 billion, with an annual revenue of US$122.1 billion, an decline of 1.3% over the previous fiscal cycle. GE's shares traded at over $25 per share, and its market capitalization was valued at US$98.1 billion in September 2018.[83]

Year Revenue
in mil. USD$
Net income
in mil. USD$
Total Assets
in mil. USD$
Price per Share
in USD$
2005[84] 136,580 16,720 673,321 22.35
2006[84] 151,568 20,742 696,683 22.43
2007[85] 172,488 22,208 795,683 25.44
2008[86] 181,581 17,335 797,769 19.44
2009[87] 154,438 10,725 781,901 9.96
2010[88] 149,567 11,344 747,793 12.68
2011[89] 146,542 13,120 718,189 14.32
2012[90] 146,684 13,641 684,999 16.56
2013[91] 113,245 13,057 656,560 20.32 307,000
2014[92] 117,184 15,233 654,954 22.72 305,000
2015[93] 117,386 −6,145 493,071 24.28 333,000
2016[94] 123,693 8,176 365,183 28.36 295,000
2017[83] 122,092 −6,222 377,945 25.02 313,000


As a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange, GE stock was one of the 30 components of the Dow Jones Industrial Average from 1907 to 2018, the longest continuous presence of any company on the index, and during this time the only company which was part of the original Dow Jones Industrial Index created in 1896.[95] On June 26, 2018, the stock was removed from the index and replaced with Walgreens Boots Alliance.[96] In the years leading to its removal, GE was the worst performing stock in the Dow, falling more than 55 percent year on year and more than 25 percent year to date.[97]


In July 2010, General Electric was willing to pay $23.4 million to settle a SEC complaint, as GE bribed Iraqi government officials to win contracts under the U.N. oil-for-food program. [98]

Corporate affairs

A General Electric neon sign
A General Electric neon sign

GE is a multinational conglomerate headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts.[1] However its main offices are located at 30 Rockefeller Plaza at Rockefeller Center in New York City, known now as the Comcast Building.[99] It was formerly known as the GE Building for the prominent GE logo on the roof; NBC's headquarters and main studios are also located in the building. Through its RCA subsidiary, it has been associated with the center since its construction in the 1930s. GE moved its corporate headquarters from the GE Building on Lexington Avenue to Fairfield, Connecticut in 1974.[100] In 2016 GE announced a move to the South Boston Waterfront neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. The first group of workers arrived in the summer of 2016, and the full move will be completed by 2018.[101][102][103]

GE's tax return is the largest return filed in the United States; the 2005 return was approximately 24,000 pages when printed out, and 237 megabytes when submitted electronically.[104] The company also "spends more on U.S. lobbying than any other company."[105]

In 2005, GE launched its "Ecomagination" initiative in an attempt to position itself as a "green" company. GE is one of the biggest players in the wind power industry, and is developing environment-friendly products such as hybrid locomotives, desalination and water reuse solutions, and photovoltaic cells. The company "plans to build the largest solar-panel-making factory in the U.S.,"[105] and has set goals for its subsidiaries to lower their greenhouse gas emissions.[106]

On May 21, 2007, GE announced it would sell its GE Plastics division to petrochemicals manufacturer SABIC for net proceeds of $11.6 billion. The transaction took place on August 31, 2007, and the company name changed to SABIC Innovative Plastics, with Brian Gladden as CEO.[107]

In February 2017, GE announced that the company intends to close the gender gap by promising to hire and place 20,000 women in technical roles by 2020. The company is also seeking to have a 50:50 male to female gender representation in all entry-level technical programs.[108]

In October 2017, GE announced they would be closing research and development centers in Shanghai, Munich and Rio de Janeiro. The company spent $5 billion on R&D in the last year.[109]


As of October 2018, John L. Flannery was replaced by H. Lawrence Culp Jr. as Chairman and CEO in a unanimous vote of the GE Board of Directors.[110]

John L. Flannery had succeeded Jeffrey Immelt as chief executive officer and chairman of the board of GE.[111]

Corporate recognition and rankings

In 2011, Fortune ranked GE the sixth-largest firm in the U.S.,[112] and the 14th-most profitable.[5] Other rankings for 2011/2012 include the following:[113]

  • #18 company for leaders (Fortune)
  • #6 best global brand (Interbrand)
  • #82 green company (Newsweek)
  • #91 most admired company (Fortune)
  • #19 most innovative company (Fast Company).

In 2012, GE's brand was valued at $28.8 billion.[114] CEO Jeff Immelt had a set of changes in the presentation of the brand commissioned in 2004, after he took the reins as chairman, to unify the diversified businesses of GE.[citation needed]

The changes included a new corporate color palette, small modifications to the GE logo, a new customized font (GE Inspira) and a new slogan, "Imagination at work", composed by David Lucas, to replace the slogan "We Bring Good Things to Life" used since 1979.[115] The standard requires many headlines to be lowercased and adds visual "white space" to documents and advertising. The changes were designed by Wolff Olins and are used on GE's marketing, literature and website. In 2014, a second typeface family was introduced: GE Sans and Serif by Bold Monday created under art direction by Wolff Olins.[116]

As of 2016, GE had appeared on the Fortune 500 list for 22 years and held the 11th rank.[117] GE was removed from the Dow Jones Industrial Average on June 28, 2018 after the value had dropped below 1% of the index's weight.[118]

Ranking in Fortune 500
Year Rank
1996 7
1997 5
1998 5
1999 5
2000 6
2001 5
2002 6
2003 5
2004 5
2005 5
2006 7
2007 6
2008 6
2009 5
2010 4
2011 6
2012 6
2013 8
2014 9
2015 8
2016 11
2017 13


The company describes itself as composed of a number of primary business units or "businesses." Each unit is itself a vast enterprise, many of which would, even as a standalone company, rank in the Fortune 500[citation needed]. The list of GE businesses varies over time as the result of acquisitions, divestitures and reorganizations.[citation needed]

As of January 2018, GE's primary business divisions are:[119]

The former GE Appliances and Lighting segment was dissolved in 2014 when GE's appliance division was sold to Haier for $5.4 billion. GE Lighting (consumer lighting) and the newly-created Current, powered by GE, which deals in commercial LED, solar, EV, and energy storage, are now stand-alone businesses within the company.[120]

Through these businesses, GE participates in markets that include the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity (e.g. nuclear, gas and solar), lighting, industrial automation, medical imaging equipment, motors, railway locomotives, aircraft jet engines, and aviation services. Through GE Commercial Finance, GE Consumer Finance, GE Equipment Services, and GE Insurance it offers a range of financial services. It has a presence in over 100 countries.[121]

GE gauges to control a railway locomotive at a museum near Saskatoon, Canada[122]
GE gauges to control a railway locomotive at a museum near Saskatoon, Canada[122]

General Imaging manufacturers GE digital cameras.[123]

Even though the first wave of conglomerates (such as ITT Corporation, Ling-Temco-Vought, Tenneco, etc.) fell by the wayside by the mid-1980s, in the late 1990s, another wave (consisting of Westinghouse, Tyco, and others) tried and failed to emulate GE's success.[124]

On May 4, 2008, it was announced that GE would auction off its appliances business for an expected sale of $5–8 billion.[125] However, this plan fell through as a result of the recession.[126]

As of August 2015 GE is planning to set up a silicon carbide chip packaging R&D center in coalition with SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Utica, New York. The project will create 470 jobs with the potential to grow to 820 jobs within 10 years.[127]

On September 14, 2015, GE announced the creation of a new unit: GE Digital, which will bring together its software and IT capabilities. The new business unit will be headed by Bill Ruh, who joined GE in 2011 from Cisco Systems and has since worked on GE's software efforts.[128]

Environmental record


GE has a history of some of its activities giving rise to large-scale air and water pollution. Based on data from 2000,[129] researchers at the Political Economy Research Institute listed the corporation as the fourth-largest corporate producer of air pollution in the United States, with more than 4.4 million pounds per year (2,000 tons) of toxic chemicals released into the air.[130] GE has also been implicated in the creation of toxic waste. According to EPA documents, only the United States Government, Honeywell, and Chevron Corporation are responsible for producing more Superfund toxic waste sites.[131]

In 1983, New York State Attorney General Robert Abrams filed suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York to compel GE to pay for the clean-up of what was claimed to be more than 100,000 tons of chemicals dumped from their plant in Waterford, New York.[132] In 1999, the company agreed to pay a $250 million settlement in connection with claims it polluted the Housatonic River (Pittsfield, Massachusetts) and other sites with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other hazardous substances.[133]

In 2003, acting on concerns that the plan proposed by GE did not "provide for adequate protection of public health and the environment," the United States Environmental Protection Agency issued a unilateral administrative order for the company to "address cleanup at the GE site" in Rome, Georgia, also contaminated with PCBs.[134]

The nuclear reactors involved in the 2011 crisis at Fukushima I in Japan were GE designs,[135] and the architectural designs were done by Ebasco,[136] formerly owned by GE. Concerns over the design and safety of these reactors were raised as early as 1972, but tsunami danger was not discussed at that time.[137] As of 2014, the same model nuclear power reactors designed by GE are operating in the US,[138] such as the controversial Pilgrim Nuclear Generating Station, in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Pollution of the Hudson River

GE heavily contaminated the Hudson River with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) between 1947 and 1977.[139] This pollution caused a range of harmful effects to wildlife and people who eat fish from the river or drink the water.[140] In response to the contamination, activists protested in various ways. Musician Pete Seeger founded the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater and the Clearwater Festival to draw attention to the problem. In 1983, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared a 200-mile (320 km) stretch of the river, from Hudson Falls to New York City, to be a Superfund site requiring cleanup. This Superfund site is considered to be one of the largest in the nation.[141] Other sources of pollution, including mercury contamination and sewage dumping, have also contributed to problems in the Hudson River watershed.[142][143]

Pollution of the Housatonic River

From c. 1932 until 1977, GE polluted the Housatonic River with PCB discharges from its plant at Pittsfield, Massachusetts. EPA designated the Pittsfield plant and several miles of the Housatonic to be a Superfund site in 1997, and ordered GE to remediate the site.[144] Aroclor 1254 and Aroclor 1260, made by Monsanto was the primary contaminant of the pollution.[145][146] The highest concentrations of PCBs in the Housatonic River are found in Woods Pond in Lenox, Massachusetts, just south of Pittsfield, where they have been measured up to 110 mg/kg in the sediment.[146] About 50% of all the PCBs currently in the river are estimated to be retained in the sediment behind Woods Pond dam. This is estimated to be about 11,000 pounds (5,000 kg) of PCBs.[146] Former filled oxbows are also polluted.[147] Waterfowl and fish who live in and around the river contain significant levels of PCBs and can present health risks if consumed.[148][149][150]

Environmental initiatives

A General Electric EV charging station in North America
A General Electric EV charging station in North America

On June 6, 2011, GE announced that it has licensed solar thermal technology from California-based eSolar for use in power plants that use both solar and natural gas.[151]

On May 26, 2011, GE unveiled its EV Solar Carport, a carport that incorporates solar panels on its roof, with electric vehicle charging stations under its cover.[152]

In May 2005, GE announced the launch of a program called "Ecomagination", intended, in the words of CEO Jeff Immelt, "to develop tomorrow's solutions such as solar energy, hybrid locomotives, fuel cells, lower-emission aircraft engines, lighter and stronger durable materials, efficient lighting, and water purification technology".[153] The announcement prompted an op-ed piece in The New York Times to observe that, "while General Electric's increased emphasis on clean technology will probably result in improved products and benefit its bottom line, Mr. Immelt's credibility as a spokesman on national environmental policy is fatally flawed because of his company's intransigence in cleaning up its own toxic legacy."[154]

GE has said that it will invest $1.4 billion in clean technology research and development in 2008 as part of its Ecomagination initiative. As of October 2008, the scheme had resulted in 70 green products being brought to market, ranging from halogen lamps to biogas engines. In 2007, GE raised the annual revenue target for its Ecomagination initiative from $20 billion in 2010 to $25 billion following positive market response to its new product lines.[155] In 2010, GE continued to raise its investment by adding $10 billion into Ecomagination over the next five years.[156]

GE Energy's renewable energy business has expanded greatly, to keep up with growing U.S. and global demand for clean energy. Since entering the renewable energy industry in 2002, GE has invested more than $850 million in renewable energy commercialization. In August 2008 it acquired Kelman Ltd,[157] a Northern Ireland-based company specializing in advanced monitoring and diagnostics technologies for transformers used in renewable energy generation, and announced an expansion of its business in Northern Ireland in May 2010.[158] In 2009, GE's renewable energy initiatives, which include solar power, wind power and GE Jenbacher gas engines using renewable and non-renewable methane-based gases,[159] employ more than 4,900 people globally and have created more than 10,000 supporting jobs.[160]

GE Energy and Orion New Zealand Limited (Orion) have announced implementation of the first phase of a GE network management system to help improve power reliability for customers. GE's ENMAC Distribution Management System is the foundation of Orion's initiative. The system of smart grid technologies will significantly improve the network company's ability to manage big network emergencies and help it to restore power faster when outages occur.

In June 2018, GE Volunteers, an internal group of GE Employees, along with Malaysian Nature Society transplanted more than 270 plants from the Taman Tugu forest reserve so that they may be replanted in the forest trail which is under construction.

Educational initiatives

GE healthcare is collaborating with The Wayne State University School of Medicine and the Medical University of South Carolina to offer an integrated radiology curriculum during their respective MD Programs led by investigators of the Advanced Diagnostic Ultrasound in micro-gravity study.[161] GE has donated over one million dollars of Logiq E Ultrasound equipment to these two institutions.[162]

Marketing initiatives

2011–2013 content-marketing campaigns

Between September 2011 and April 2013, GE ran a content marketing campaign dedicated to telling the stories of "innovators—people who are reshaping the world through act or invention". The initiative included 30 3-minute films from leading documentary film directors (Albert Maysles, Jessica Yu, Leslie Iwerks, Steve James, Alex Gibney, Lixin Fan, Gary Hustwit and others), and a user-generated competition that received over 600 submissions, out of which 20 finalist were chosen.[163]

Short Films, Big Ideas was launched at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival in partnership with cinelan. Stories included breakthroughs in Slingshot (water vapor distillation system), cancer research, energy production, pain management and food access. Each of the 30 films received world premiere screenings at a major international film festival, including the Sundance Film Festival and the Tribeca Film Festival. The winning amateur director film, The Cyborg Foundation, was awarded a US$100,000 prize at the 2013 at Sundance Film Festival.[164] According to GE, the campaign garnered more than 1.5 billion total media impressions, 14 million online views, and was seen in 156 countries.[citation needed]


In January 2017, GE signed an estimated $7 million deal with the Boston Celtics to have its corporate logo put on the NBA team's jersey.[165]

Political affiliation

In the 1950s GE sponsored Ronald Reagan's TV career and launched him on the lecture circuit as a crusader against big government. Although it can be argued that GE frequently supported conservative policies, GE's record with designing social programs, supporting civil rights organizations, and funding minority education programs, speaks to their effort to support philanthropic programs and progressive causes.[166]

Notable appearances in media

In the early 1950s Kurt Vonnegut was a writer for GE. A number of his novels and stories (notably Cat's Cradle and Player Piano) refer to the fictional city of Ilium, which appears to be loosely based on Schenectady, New York.[167] The Ilium Works is the setting for the short story "Deer in the Works".

In 1981, GE won a Clio award for its :30 Soft White Light Bulbs commercial, We Bring Good Things to Life.[168] The slogan "We Bring Good Things to Life" was created by Phil Dusenberry at the ad agency BBDO.[169]

GE was the primary focus of a 1991 short subject Academy Award-winning documentary, Deadly Deception: General Electric, Nuclear Weapons, and Our Environment,[170] that juxtaposed GE's "We Bring Good Things To Life" commercials with the true stories of workers and neighbors whose lives have been affected by the company's activities involving nuclear weapons.[171]

In 2013, GE received a National Jefferson Award for Outstanding Service by a Major Corporation.[172]

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Further reading

  • Carlson, W. Bernard. Innovation as a Social Process: Elihu Thomson and the Rise of General Electric, 1870–1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991).
  • Woodbury, David O. Elihu Thomson, Beloved Scientist (Boston: Museum of Science, 1944)
  • Haney, John L. The Elihu Thomson Collection American Philosophical Society Yearbook 1944.
  • Hammond, John W. Men and Volts: The Story of General Electric, published 1941, 436 pages.
  • Mill, John M. Men and Volts at War: The Story of General Electric in World War II, published 1947.
  • Irmer, Thomas. Gerard Swope. In Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720 to the Present, vol. 4, edited by Jeffrey Fear. German Historical Institute.

External links

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