SINCE ITS FOUNDING IN 1892, GE HAS BEEN A LIVING SYMBOL OF BUSINESS ACUMEN AND AMERICAN INGENUITY.
GE Turns to Florida’s Veteran Talent to Power its Latest Plants
From Thomas Edison’s incandescent lamp to the Mars Rover, the company has staked its reputation on an unwavering commitment to innovation—always striving to deliver faster, simpler solutions to its customers. For GE Oil & Gas, the company’s fastest- growing industrial segment, that means finding new, sustainable methods of bringing energy to the world in more efficient ways. When success hinges on improving productivity at every step, every business decision must be as strategic as possible. That’s why GE chose Florida for its latest advanced manufacturing facility, where cutting-edge 3-D printers will design, produce and test the next generation of control and safety pressure relief valves for the energy industry. More than just a critical supply chain decision, it’s one of the many reasons GE stands strong as the largest industrial multinational corporation in the world.
A Factory to Fuel the World
Following an extensive site-selection process, GE announced plans to open its state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in late September 2014. At 510,000 square feet, the new plant is dedicated to fabricating control and safety relief valves primarily used in various complex process applications across the energy industry. The factory is a critical link in GE’s supply chain, requiring a strategic location with the resources and advanced manufacturing workforce talent to bring new product design possibilities to life. According to GE’s Vice President of Global Supply Chain, Julie DeWane, “Jacksonville, Florida was a clear choice.” Boasting one of the state’s largest deep-water ports, a large, qualified workforce and robust manufacturing industry, the city quickly rose to the top of GE’s list. Thanks to Florida’s favorable business climate, anchored by no personal income tax and a 5.5 percent corporate tax rate, GE was able to get up and running fast. Just two months after the announcement, it began setting up manufacturing operations and conducting employee training on- site. “The new GE Oil & Gas facility in Jacksonville will create at least 500 new jobs, giving even more Floridians the opportunity to live the American dream,” said Florida Governor Rick Scott. “Two years ago, we eliminated the sales tax on manufacturing equipment to give manufacturers like GE Oil & Gas more opportunities to expand and grow in Florida. Florida businesses have already created more than 917,000 private-sector jobs since 2010, and we will keep working to provide even more opportunities for Florida families.”
Building on Veteran Talent
Of all site requirements, finding a location with a skilled, diverse workforce may have been the most crucial. “The right skill-set to support these high-tech manufacturing jobs is critical to our competitiveness,” DeWane said. Luckily, GE identified multiple sources for top talent, with the state’s large civilian veteran population—the third-largest in the United States—playing a fundamental role. Featuring several major naval installations and a Marine Corps support facility, Jacksonville alone is home to more than 50,000 active duty and reserve members. On average, approximately 3,000 veterans transition into the city’s civilian workforce each year. “Florida’s workforce continues to be a key advantage for businesses,” said Florida Secretary of Commerce and President & CEO of Enterprise Florida Bill Johnson. “World leaders like GE Oil & Gas are finding the highly skilled talent they need to be successful, building on the state’s strong manufacturing industry.”
Jacksonville’s veteran population provides us with a pipeline to highly skilled workers needed to fuel business growth.
Julie DeWane, Vice President of Global Supply Chain at GE Measurement and Control
GE already knew the skills possessed by the area’s veteran population would easily transfer to advanced manufacturing. In 2012, the company won a three- year, $265 million Department of Defense contract to manufacture F/A 18 A-D aircraft engine components at the Fleet Readiness Center Southeast, located at Naval Air Station Jacksonville. “We recognize and value veterans have a unique skill-set, from technical to leadership qualities, which are a natural fit for many roles within the company,” DeWane affirmed. “Jacksonville’s veteran population provides us with a pipeline to highly skilled workers needed to fuel business growth.” The city’s military talent pipeline is representative of what smart manufacturers in search of a well-trained, tech-savvy and disciplined workforce will find throughout the state. Florida hosts 20 major military installations, including three unified combatant commands. The state’s defense system manufacturing industry, ranked second in the nation, illustrates the strategic intersection between military prowess and manufacturing proficiency that has already lured many industrial enterprises to the state.
Priming the Talent Pipeline
GE is also taking proactive measures to ensure the availability of a workforce with the necessary skill-set for years to come. “We are partnering with local technical schools, university programs and associations to design programs that build the skills and capabilities we need for the future,” said DeWane. For example, Florida State College of Jacksonville, which offers degrees and industry certifications in advanced manufacturing and mechatronics, is already planning to customize certain programs to the mutual benefit of GE and its students. Overall, Florida’s high concentration of post-secondary educational institutions is a major boon to the state’s business community. Nearby schools, Jacksonville University and the University of North Florida, place an additional 18,000+ students within 30 minutes of the plant.
For any manufacturer, speed to market is a dominant concern. If you’re in the energy business, the repercussions of a delay can be even more extensive. “We’re obsessed with finding solutions for our customers,” said DeWane. “The closer we are to them, the quicker we can anticipate and solve their challenges.” But with customers spanning 120 countries, proximity isn’t always possible, placing the weight on infrastructure to deliver maximum connectivity. Recognized as one of the best in the nation, Florida’s extensive multimodal infrastructure includes 15 deepwater seaports, 19 commercial airports and thousands of miles of road and rail. For GE, Jacksonville’s transportation network crystallized its strategic advantage as a vital global hub. “Jacksonville was a clear choice based on its quick access to ports, local transportation and large, competitive talent,” DeWane added. From its location in Cecil Commerce Center, GE has access to an on-site airport, three major rail lines and a web of arterial highways. Most importantly, it takes less than 30 minutes to deliver finished products to the Jacksonville Port Authority, which contributes to Florida’s combined $162 billion in trade each year.
Cheating Sustainable Success
As smarter supply chains drive production back to domestic shores, Florida is solidifying its reputation as an advanced manufacturing mecca. “The diverse and talented workforce, transportation infrastructure, economic programs and collaboration across various levels of governments and community made Florida the optimal solution,” DeWane affirmed. Whether you’re looking to relieve the pressure on a growing supply chain or expand your international business, Florida has the resources and cost- competitive business climate to bring long-term success to any industry.