Wow, we love you, too. Looks like General Electric really hated being in Connecticut. Because they had nothing nice to say about the state when explaining why they moved to Boston.
For example: they called their old Fairfield location a “morgue.”
So, Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey Bornstein, chatted with the Wall Street Journal about their shiny new Boston headquarters. Naturally, Connecticut came up in the conversation. And Bornstein told WSJ exactly how he felt about their former headquarters.
True, you could say he’s passionate about his old stomping grounds. But then again, those of us who still live in CT pretty much feel the same way. Sometimes.
Meaning: Connecticut doesn’t have a lot going for it in comparison to its neighboring states.
Which is why Bornstein called Fairfield a “morgue” of sorts. He told WSJ:
“There wasn’t a huge ecosystem around the company. We lived on a very beautiful property in Fairfield, but very isolated. Attracting talent there was a bit of a challenge. For younger folks maybe not the most dynamic place in the world.”
Honestly, he has a point. Connecticut is pretty. But there is only so much sight-seeing you can do before it gets boring. People like variety.
Plus, General Electric wanted to cater directly to college students with their new location. And where can you find the most science/technology-driven colleges in one location?
As Bornstein explains:
“There are upward of 500,000 kids who go to school—undergrad and graduate school, doctorate—every day here in greater Boston. People forget about it, but the first technical revolution in this country really happened here in Boston.”
It’s another area where Connecticut can’t really compete. Sure, we have Yale, but we can’t offer a myriad of competing educational institutions in one particular city. If Yale, Trinity, UConn, Quinnipiac, and Wesleyan all happened to be in New Haven or the immediate area, we would have a very different story.
Our colleges have territories where they take up certain corners of the state. They’re very spread out.
Whereas, Boston is college utopia. You can walk past Suffolk University on Tremont, turn onto Boylston, and walk past Emerson College.
Basically, you can pass 15,000 students in all of five minutes, all of which whom General Electric has a vested interest in reaching. Because that’s their new workforce.
And the tastes and preferences of this new workforce vastly differ than the wants and needs of those who began working in the 70’s and 80’s.
As Bornstein explains:
“Young talent today want to be in a vibrant, open, interactive, high-tech, fun kind of space. That’s how we thought about design in the new facility.”
No, these millennials don’t want bean bag chairs and a safe space to open up a can of play-dough. They, and I am talking about myself, would rather not work in a cramped cubicle.
You can blame the media for that preference shift.
How many movies or cartoons show just how sad/dejected the male protagonists are by using a scene of them working in a gray isolated cubicle? It’s a plot device directors still use to this day.
And, let’s be real, if you had the choice to work in a dimly lit cubicle versus an open and bright floor plan, you’d chose the latter. It seems so much happier.
So, cubicles are thing of the past now. Or, they’re quickly becoming one.
The media killed that work environment by repeatedly equating it to “depressing pencil pushing jobs that will never make you feel fulfilled.” Don’t believe me: revisit any TV show or movie where the protagonist, who wishes for something more, establishes their depression through a scene at work.
You had an entire generation grow up on this trope. What do you expect?
Sounds silly, but it goes to show just how much the media influenced the needs and desires of the new workforce.
Sure, the cubicle floor plan has its benefits for certain kinds of jobs. For example, animation studios and programming. People need their space and minimal distractions to effectively do their jobs.
Meanwhile, others simply enjoy the privacy and helps them focus better.
However, if you work for an employer that functions on collaborative effort and conversation, that’s where the cubicle becomes somewhat of a hindrance.
You know what, I’m just talking in circles. So, now I’m gonna move onto what got me fired up in the first place.
Let’s go to when the conversation turns into CT-bashing. And it’s not pretty. Or fair. Or even professional.
Bornstein said this about their old headquarters:
“If you saw where we were in Fairfield County, it was a morgue. Very little activity. I hated it. […] I can walk out my [new] door and visit four startups. In Fairfield, I couldn’t even walk out my door and get a sandwich.”
Uh. RUDE. Honestly, that sounds like something the media claims millennials say all the time. But, this came from the mouth of a baby boomer. And the stench of entitlement runs deep in this guy.
Fairfield First Selectman Mike Tetreau called Bornstein out on the Stamford Advocate:
“They sat in their offices and they didn’t go outside to get a sandwich because they went to their three dining rooms. […] They were in the most remote section of Fairfield. You could say they were barely in Fairfield.”
So, yeah, I’d say that morgue comment crossed a line. To those of us familiar with Fairfield, it sounds like General Electric didn’t even bother going into their downtown area.
Because, it’s awash with killer places to grab a quick meal. There’s always something to do in the town.
But, instead, GE made Fairfield sound like a total wasteland. Which makes me believe that this interview also functioned as a revenge piece.
And, honestly, that’s seriously unprofessional if that so happens to be the case.
To me, I’m detecting a lot more resentment and bitterness than what Bornstein led on. Let’s just say… I’m calling his bluff.
True, millennials are the next generation of workers and attaining the most attractive talent should be a top priority for any business. But, I doubt GE moved to Boston solely to attract new talent.
Sure, Bornstein claims that Massachusetts offered the company the least amount of incentive money to ship up to Boston. But, let’s be real, the real issue was money all along.
Any location, even Los Angeles, would offer lower taxes than those Governor Malloy wanted to impose on them. Let’s not forget when General Electric asked our governor for tax credits, our politicians laughed at them.
While GE says taxes were raised approximately 5 times since 2011 before they explored a move, House Representative Brendan Sharkey famously said:
“They’re not paying any taxes. How much lower can their taxes be in a state?”
Which is probably why General Electric then sold their headquarters to Sacred Heart, so the state couldn’t even reap property taxes off their 66-acre lot. Now, that revenge was absolutely poetic.
But, that should have been it. They said their peace and can now start a new chapter in their life. Instead, they’re refusing to let it go. So, I’m calling everything Bornstein said to WSJ a spite-filled monologue.
Sure, they could have railed on Connecticut’s taxes, but that’s really nothing new. So, they hit Connecticut where it hurts: by making it seem even less attractive to startup a business. Bornstein basically said, “This place is like death.”
By calling their former headquarters a morgue and illustrating how and why there wasn’t anything to do: it makes other businesses think twice. Especially those interested in attracting millennial-workers. You know what they say in real estate: location, location, location.
So, you can say General Electric is extremely bitter about how our politicians treated them and they’re just nailing in as many coffins as they can before their move loses its newsworthiness. Honestly, I’d say they’re somewhat justified.
But, GE went after the people of CT who weren’t at fault for what happened. In doing so, they crossed a line that hurts anyone but their intended targets: the politicians who laughed at them. Instead, they attacked the city they called home for over 40 years.
Anyways, how Connecticut’s government treated its biggest employer should be seen as a warning to other state politicians. Don’t mess with them. They will make sure you feel the burn long after they’re gone and this piece is proof.
And, it’s a lesson our lawmakers still have to learn, I’m afraid.
Because, when GE comes out with a piece like this long after their move, it shows the magnitude of just how royally our representatives messed up.