Immelt told a good story; made believable by the distinction he drew between GE’s top management’s intimate and personal engagement with startups, VCs and academia from its Boston headquarters compared to having a long-distance relationships from its Fairfield campus through the filter of video conferences. He said that this move was vital to the future success of the company which interpreted in the context of open and collaborative innovation trends would make it impossible for top management to stay in Fairfield, isolated from the dynamics of the innovation ecosystem that creates big winner-take-all businesses.
With all the politicians in attendance, much of the session was very political and much less interesting. Protestors outside voiced opposition to the tax incentives given to GE and inside Gov. Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh defended their decisions with explanations of how they plan to spend the $50 million that GE will donate to the Boston school system, for improving the states STEM workforce and to improve healthcare.
It’s too early to predict GE’s impact on the local economy or how fast the industrial internet market will grow. Adding the headquarters of a company with annual revenues of more than $100 billion will at least generate tax revenues from property taxes and the personal income taxes of top bracket earners in addition to the $50 million committed to the city and state. But with luck, GE management’s appetite for innovation from Boston’s ecosystem will make Immelt’s wish come true: GE’s move to Boston will create a long term impact in Boston like Hewlett-Packard had in Silicon Valley.
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