Exodus of GE operations saddens Hefty

Piece by piece, GE Healthcare is moving substantial parts of its operations away from Waukesha and Wisconsin, and it’s not a good thing to suffer erosion in a high tech, high export, high growth business.

Tom Hefty, who lives in Waukesha, served as interim Waukesha County executive and follows the state’s economy closely, sees the gradual exodus as a telltale that Wisconsin hasn’t been serious about supporting its most important industrial clusters. Here’s a recent e-mail from Hefty on the subject:

“This (exodus) is the worst Wisconsin development in my lifetime. It started in 2004 when GE moved its healthcare headquarters from Waukesha to London, England.

“Then GE opened its new research center in New York State. Now the X-ray team is moving to China.

“GE has sold off the land around its old Waukesha headquarters.  The Information Systems building in the Milwaukee County Research Park, which opened in 2006, is well below capacity—and GE has only a short-term lease on that Wauwatosa property.

“According to Michael Porter’s recent analysis, the medical device cluster lead by GE is one of Wisconsin’s two leading high tech clusters. The other is information systems. GE is Wisconsin’s leading high tech exporter–for all industries.

“It is hard to believe—Jeff Immelt, the GE CEO lived in Waukesha for five years; GE held its stockholder annual meeting at the Waukesha County fair grounds in 2002; and Wisconsin was the GE Healthcare headquarters for 25 years. But Wisconsin’s political instability did in the GE relationship.

“Wisconsin literally intentionally disadvantaged GE on corporate taxes (combined reporting changes); on highway access for the new building; on UW’s failure to build research relationships; and then on disclosure of corporate information relating to the movie tax credit—among many other things.

“After Immelt left, the Milwaukee media felt compelled to publicize the price of his Waukesha house—roughly the price of the garage at his new Connecticut home.  But in Milwaukee it was symbolic of corporate ‘excess.’

“I watch the Democratic attack ads on Milwaukee TV against rich people and corporations, and then I see GE slowly leaving the state.  It is a sad day for Wisconsin. Not since Cray Computer left Wisconsin 20 years ago have we lost a market leading company in a growing high tech industry.

“Immelt is head of Obama’s jobs task force—-and it seems apparent that Obama is not pushing to keep jobs in Wisconsin.”

Hefty added that there was a recommendation coming out of the first set of economic summits a decade ago that UW – Madison should connect to GE. Instead of putting its next research park near Waukesha, it went to Verona.

In fairness, Hefty points out that there have been some positive moves in terms of keeping GE Healthcare happy here. UW – Milwaukee will build its new engineering campus next to the Medical College of Wisconsin and GE’s Wauwatosa facility, and both institutions are working hard to connect more deeply with GE.

Further, the current legislature has made some moves that will help how GE  — and other large manufacturers  — look at the state. It has tweaked the combined reporting tax law, so that it may end up as a positive for some corporations based here. It passed a tax credit that offsets most of the state’s corporate income tax for manufacturers and agri-business. And it has passed business friendly laws that will help reduce undue corporate liabilities and will clarify future rule making.

Gov. Walker has visited GE Healthcare, and that also helps.

It is now time to move on a recommendation from the economic summit of 2010 that cluster councils be created across the state. About a dozen councils, meeting a couple times a year, would ensure that government, business, labor and education leaders stay in harmony of keeping our leading companies competitive from a Wisconsin base.


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  • None

    Hefty and Torinus continue with their UW-Madison bashing.  GE has a close relationship with many departments on the Madison campus, and its Waukesha and Madison plants utilize Madison patents.  The suggestion that the Madison campus build a research park in Waukesha is laughable.  How many Madison professors would commute between the campus and Waukesha?  The whole point of a research park is to have it convenient to the campus which generates its spinoffs.  Instead of constantly harping about UW-Madison, Torinus and Hefty should thank their lucky stars that we have one campus in the state which is capable of generating economic activity of the magnitude of  the Madison campus. At $1 billion plus in competitively-awarded research done every year, it outshines everything else in the state.  On, Wisconsin!

  • Bob Carr

    Wow, the OWS and UW crowd along with the Unions are creating a great state in Wisconsin.  All they have to do now is succeed in recalling the Governor and they will have not only succeeded in getting rid of greedy business and jobs in Wisconsin, but the tax base that funds UW as well.  Hooray for Solidarity.  Up the green flag — Now all Wisconsin needs to do is reinstate the “compassionate” hand of the Unions guiding the ship of Wisconsin back again onto the rocks of financial  bancruptcy. 

    Now that Imelt is moving out of his little house in Wisconsin and to his mansion in Conneticut, maybe in view of the solidarity of the Occupy movement they can contact their Comrades in Conneticut and Occupy his house.  Maybe they could occupy the 80% of Big Business leaders that donated to the Current Administration’s victory in 2008. 

    But then again;

    I’m banking on the people of Wisconsin however having more common sense than that.  Maybe with the policies of Walker, the high tech companies thinking of moving and those in the process may start to rethink their desire to move out.  Maybe Wisconsin can start to dig itself back out of the hole it finds itself in.

    • Anonymous

      We need all parties in the state to understand and acknowledge that the vast majority of businesses do not exploit. Instead, they create innovative products and services that people need (known as a market place); they create jobs and wealth; they create the tax base on which the public sector depends.
      Further, they do all of the above by engaging their talented employees in common purpose. The old adversarial model of labor vs. management failed decades ago. Collaboration — co-laboring — works infinitely better. Indeed, it is the only way that works.
      Those who don’t add value like to create enemies to justify their existence. The value-add people create friends, allies, co-workers, vendors, investors and customers. The future of the country depends on the latter, not the former. The former includes most politicians.

      • mike tyson

        End tax breaks for corporations. My small business deserves tax breaks before scumbag ge and the rest of those Chinese loving trash scum.

    • mike tyson

      Another republican idiot.

  • fromafar

    Business folks in the Milwaukee area, in the entire state, must now band together to try to balance the devastating effects of Jeff Imelt/GE/Obama and their punishment to Wisconsin for the results of our last recall election. It’s all about singling out if you don’t ‘agree’, marginalizing, punishing. We can attract and keep new, other, and more businesses!

    • Anonymous

      Did I miss something re GE?

  • What i LOVE is that the same CORPS that are recording RECORD PROFITS are saying that union labor is killing them even thought record PROFITS GUYS IT CANT BE BOTH

    Perhaps the GREEDY 1% just want Slave priced labor for even more profits omg over the last 40 yrs or pay has decreased and their pay is up almost 500% but its the greedy Workers who work Verses the Charitable 1% and their bonuses and Huge over paid for 20 hrs a week of less of playing golf as a job!

    So yes blame the other guy who is in the same boat as you no the GREEDY sob who took the only life raft and left you and the guy u blame to die alone while the ship goes down

    Wake the Fuck up unite and win or divide and decline your call

    I say united we stand!

    READ this


    It’s the Inequality, StupidEleven charts that explain what’s wrong with America.

  • OOH YEAH PS GE GOT A REFUND AND PAID LESS THEN 000000.0000000% Tax rate
    but yeah its the taxes that area killing its profits


    Over the past five years, while General Electric made $26 billion in profits in the United States, it received a $4.1 billion refund from the IRS. (Source: Citizens for Tax Justice hereand The New York Times here. Note: despite rumors to the contrary, the Times has stood by its story.)

    If you take teh refund into account you paid GE
    Every tax payer paid GE $29.29 this year.http://1.usa.gov/g5lwpo

    • Anonymous

      We need a minimum tax for corporations.

      • mike tyson

        We need to tax the living sht out of all corporations and give tax breaks to small business

  • mike tyson

    Republicans and democrats have to go. Both party’s are in it for there own interest and that is not Americas interest. It is time for an independent . Tax breaks for corporations must end all together. If they have all the business their why do they get anything from my country. Mattel, GE, all the big ones need to be forced out of running Americas government. They have no right there anymore. We decide not them. I will be changing to a independent come Monday. As being a republican or a democrat makes people look incredibly stupid.

  • Moose Warwick

    Did they GE make $26 billion in profits if so then why do they keep leaving the US for other places, like England, Verona and now to China? GE is saying they were punished per Obama and the battle of the unions in Wisconsin? So why if this is even true leave and go overseas and not try elsewhere in the US if they care about we the people? Is everything now just profits and the almighty dollar in all of these companies who have went overseas? Then the average American is asking where is the Middle Class how about gone? We do not even make a TV here in the states anymore WHY? How have we allowed companies to be able to take off and go anywhere out of the country and take away the jobs. One politician trying to keep the Middle Class Sen Bernie Sanders and also trying to protect the military and their health care and retirements. Walker was trying to destroy the ability of a worker to have someone to stand up against the upper management in many companies who keep taking big profits millions why? Even my job as an RN with corp owned by Gov Scott of Fla. I was maxed out for raises for over 6 years of hard work and taking care of very sick people? Yet his family made big profits WHY? No one to fight for me. Yes, some unions went too far at times but many had to be there or the worker was abused. GE was so respected for years but not seeing they are working for this country anymore? Just one among many and the politicians in Congress do not care.

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