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GE to shutter local operations Jan. 15

It’s official now.

The longtime relationship between Fort Wayne and General Electric Co. will come to an end on Jan. 15 when the remaining jobs in the Summit City are shipped off to Mexico.

The announcement came Friday afternoon in a news release from Matt Conkrite, the communications leader of GE’s Power Division in Illinois.

In January, company officials announced the likelihood that the two remaining operations in Fort Wayne – a motor testing lab and the executive center on Coliseum Boulevard – would cease, eliminating the last 88 jobs in a city that once employed more than 10,000 workers on the iconic Broadway campus.

GE, based in Fairfield, Conn., has had a presence in Fort Wayne since it bought the former Jenny Electric Light Co. in 1911.

The decision announced Friday came after a 60-day period of discussions with the International Union of Electrical Workers and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which represent nine workers at the facility.

“We’ve already kind of expected the final decision to be what it is,” said Brent Eastom, president of the IUE-CWA Local 901.

The union was able to secure retirement packages for those workers, or severance benefits that will allow them to get through the transition pretty much unscathed, Eastom said.

Workers who want to continue with GE may apply for preferential placement to other GE facilities before the local operation’s closing, he said.

In Friday’s statement, GE said the union’s proposals fell short of the “savings and efficiencies” generated by the move.

“By consolidating our commercial operations, technologies and lab into our manufacturing base, this action will enable the business to be more cost-competitive and more responsive and proactive with our customers, coordinating better with production schedules, material purchasing, and service support,” Conkrite wrote in the release.

Eastom said GE’s decision to close the last of its operations here was not due to the local workers, whom he described as productive and diligent.

“It’s a business move,” he said. “They couldn’t have done anything to save the work, short of asking to be paid $2 an hour.

“The work wasn’t going to stay here.”

The fate of the 32-acre property, which comprises 13 largely vacant buildings on Broadway, has not been determined.

rgreen@jg.net

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