When GE Aviation announced in April that it will bring 1,400 new jobs to the Cincinnati, Ohio, it was ground-breaking news in terms of employment. It was the largest number of jobs to come into this Midwest town that is host to ten Fortune 500 companies, in over a decade.
What wasn’t surprising however was why GE chose the city as its new U.S. Global Operations Center.
“Ohio and GE have been working together for many years and Ohio is home to over 15,000 GE employees today,” said Shane Fitzsimons, senior vice president, GE Global Operations when announcing that the Greater Cincinnati area will be one of GE’s five shared centers globally.
The city and the company have a long, happy history together dating back to 1949 when GE chose a federally owned plant near Cincinnati, where Wright Aeronautical piston engines had been produced during World War II, to build a plant. GE formally opened the plant on February 28, 1949, and immediately began manufacturing high-powered propulsion systems for America’s post-war Air Force. The facility, eventually known as Evendale, would become GE Aviation's world headquarters.
"Ohio is home to more GE employees than any other state in the country, with its largest footprint in Greater Cincinnati,” said Matt Davis, interim executive director of REDI Cincinnati, an economic development organization.
Retaining GE and attracting additional invesment is not something that the region takes for granted. For the past two years REDI has worked with the company on a number of deals. "There is a great deal of trust between the regional economic development organizations and the company,” explains Davis. The two groups talk weekly. And it is that access that has allowed REDI to act quickly when GE had a very short timeline to find real estate that met a number of specific and complicated requirements for this new shared center, said Davis.
One particular necessity that the region had to meet was a future pipeline of talent. While the initial plan calls for 1,400 employees, once the center is up and running 2,000 employees will be needed.
Luckily the city has ample educational resources from which to pull talent. Within a 200-mile radius there are more than 300 colleges and universities. Locally there are over ten institutions that graduate 1,000 students with various technical degrees, including associate, bachelors’ and masters’ degrees.
The city also boasts that is it the only one to have the top-20 entrepreneurship programs at three universities.
Future Building Blocks
GE Aviation, of course, is no stranger to the pool of talent around the area and the company attracts a lot of recruits from the University of Cincinnati, University of Dayton and Ohio State University. In fact last year the GE Aviation Research Center, located in Evendale, was created in collaboration with the University of Cincinnati Research Institute (UCRI).
"Our business is growing significantly and we have considerable new technologies that must be developed and industrialized," said Gary Mercer, vice president of engineering at GE Aviation when announcing the partnership. "We want UC's best minds to be a part of our journey as we influence the future course of aviation. It is also an important effort to further enhance Ohio's aerospace capabilities."
Ohio's I-75 Aerospace Corridor has quite an aerospace supply chain as it is home to more than 400 aerospace and related support businesses, including aircraft and parts, aircraft engines parts, fabricated metal products, instruments and related goods.
Funding for the Research Center will come from GE, to the tune of $100 million in capital improvements. UCRI will also invest one million over the next three years to purchase equipment to support the technology projects. That money was part of a $5 million "Ohio Third Frontier" grant from the state of Ohio.
Additionally, GE has committed $6 million over the next three years to fund the six UCRI researchers and 19 UC undergraduate and postgraduate students who will work at the Evendale campus.
The multiyear research projects for the Research Center are:
Advanced low-emission combustion -- A building under construction at the east corner of the GE Evendale campus will house a new test cell for engine combustors. In the heart of a jet engine, the combustor is where compressed air and fuel are mixed and ignited to generate thrust. The test laboratory will evaluate the high compression rates demanded to achieve lower emissions in future engines such as the LEAP engine being developed by CFM International, a joint company of GE and Snecma (Safran Group) of France; and the GE9X. GE and UCRI will analyze new methods for burning fuel more efficiently and cleaner.
Ceramic matrix composites (CMCs) -- GE is the first company to introduce components made of CMCs into the hot section of its future engines. The ultra-lightweight CMCs function in extremely high temperatures that enable lower fuel consumption and maintenance costs. GE and UCRI will test and evaluate these advanced materials properties in a realistic environment. CMC components will be introduced on the new LEAP engine, which enters service in 2016 on narrow-body aircraft; and on the GE9X engine, which enters service near the end of this decade on the new Boeing 777X.
Aircraft Energy and Thermal Management -- GE Aviation's Power Distribution division in Dayton is responding to the increasing demand by airplanes for electricity. The Research Center in Evendale will study the thermal management challenges that these requirements create. GE and UCRI will link with GE's Electrical Power Integrated Systems.
“The new materials, technologies, systems and research are attracting students to both the city and GE, “explains Rick Kennedy, manager, media relations for GE Aviation in Cincinnati. “An added advantage to the region is that people based in the Midwest tend to spend their entire careers in this location. “
Another group of employees that GE is hoping will spend their careers with the company is veterans.
“Through GE, our region was part of the pilot programs to bring veterans into manufacturing jobs by providing tailored training,” says Trevor Hamilton, vice president of economic development for Cincinnati USA Partnership.
In March GE in conjunction with Cincinnati State the company joined fellow manufacturers such as, Boeing and Lockheed Martin, to celebrate the first group of U.S. veterans to complete classes from the Get Skills to Work program. (Currently the program has graduated 65 veterans.) The national goal is to train and match 100,000 veterans by 2015.
Collaborating with regional partners to find necessary resources is a common occurrence between the state of Ohio and GE. The company has asked for and received a variety of tax credits and other financial incentives.
And in turn the company will have invested $300 million in its facilities in southwestern Ohio from 2013-2015, which is a pretty nice way of ensuring that the close ties between this city and the company continues.