GE announced on Oct. 18 that it plans to invest $432 million to establish four U.S.-based refrigeration design and manufacturing centers of excellence and create 500 new "green" jobs by 2014, bringing the company's total U.S. investment announced since 2009 to more than $1 billion and jobs created to 1,300.
"With Lean manufacturing and advanced design, we believe that American workers can compete with any in the world. In addition, our employees and union leaders have agreed to innovative wage agreements that further increase the competitiveness of these plants," said Charlene Begley, CEO, GE Home & Business Solutions.
The new centers of excellence for refrigeration products will be located in Louisville, Ky.; Bloomington, Ind.; Decatur, Ala.; and Selmer, Tenn.
At its Louisville-based Appliance Park campus, GE will invest $194 million and create 300 jobs to establish a center of excellence for bottom-freezer refrigerators, a new product platform for that facility. The addition of the bottom-freezer models to the Louisville-made product lines marks the third new platform announced for that facility in the past year, following the GeoSpring Hybrid Water Heater and a new frontload washer and dryer.
The Bloomington facility, once slated for closure, will receive $93 million in investment and create 200 jobs to become GE's center of excellence for side-by-side refrigerators. This investment in new models for the Bloomington plant is in addition to a $68 million investment in the plant's current product lines that was announced on Oct. 1, bringing total investment in the Bloomington facility through 2014 to $161 million.
In Decatur, Ala., where GE's top-freezer models are made, GE will invest $43 million to create a center of excellence for top-freezers and "green" manufacturing. This is in addition to a $16 million investment made earlier this year to transition to a new product insulation process. This total $59 million investment will help retain the more than 1,000 jobs at the site.
Monogram Refrigeration Operation, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of GE in Selmer, Tenn., will receive $32 million to redesign the built-in refrigeration line made there and to produce a new configuration for the high-end market, which will help retain the 166 jobs there.
"This type of investment would have been impossible without the tremendous work underway at these plants to drive down costs and improve productivity and efficiency. With the new center of excellence model, the adoption of Lean manufacturing and agreements by employees and unions to freeze current wages and adopt competitive wage rates for new employees, these facilities are evidence of a growing American manufacturing renewal," said James P. Campbell, CEO of GE Appliances & Lighting..
A significant portion of the investment also will be used to reduce the environmental impact of the refrigerator manufacturing process. Units being redesigned in Louisville, Bloomington and Decatur will be manufactured using a new "greener" foam insulating process, which will reduce the overall CO2 or greenhouse gas emissions at these sites by 90% or 687,000 metric tons per year, the company said.