GE Appliances plans to invest $200 million in Louisville and create 400 full-time production jobs on its laundry and dishwasher lines as a new marketing campaign, new partnerships and a focus on innovation and connectivity have boosted the company’s revenue and market share, according to GEA officials.
The local upgrades are part of a $475 million nationwide expansion in production and distribution that included investments in the company’s high-end refrigeration line in Selmer, Tenn., which the company announced in May.
In total, the investments are expected to create more than 1,000 U.S. jobs.
“We are transforming our business,” President and CEO Kevin Nolan said at a ceremony Monday morning at Appliance Park, which employs about 6,000.
“Today’s announcement is good news for our employees, their families, our businesses and our community.”
Nolan said GEA it will invest $200 million in Louisville to expand dishwasher production and to help launch a new top load washer and dryer product next year. The upgrades will boost manufacturing capacity by about 20 percent in its laundry facility and 35 percent in its dishwasher lines, he said.
Work on the dishwasher expansion already has begun, Nolan said. The company said it could not yet provide details on the new laundry products.
The 400 new production jobs in Louisville, which people can apply for online, will have a starting wage of $14 an hour, though new hires can earn $14.50 an hour if they work second or third shift.
A local union leader said the investments and the additional jobs are boosting the morale of the existing workers, many of whom had worried about the park’s future after the company was bought by China-based Qingdao Haier. Company leaders repeatedly had warned that the Louisville site would have to undergo changes because it is not profitable.
“It’s good to know that they’re investing,” said Dino Driskell, president of IUE-CWA Local 83761, which represents the park’s hourly workers.
The investments indicate to the employees that the company remains committed to Appliance Park, he said.
In particular, Driskell lauded the GEA sales teams, which have stepped up their efforts to boost the company’s reputation in an industry in which rivals, including LG and Samsung, have presented the iconic U.S. brand with stiff competition.
This year, however, GEA has seen its revenue grow — 11 percent in the first six months according to the China Financial Weekly — while sales in the U.S. appliance industry as a whole are down about 1 percent.
“We’re growing this year,” Peter Pepe, vice president of clothes care, told Insider Monday, though he declined to provide details.
GEA is manufacturing products that consumers want and its “house of brands” strategy, a move away from a single GE brand toward multiple brands with separate identities and customers, has paid dividends, he said.
That growth has to be supported, though, by continued innovation and new products, Pepe said, which helps explain the recent and coming investments.
A GEA spokeswoman told Insider via email that while Appliance Park remains unprofitable, “it has improved in the last couple of years,” and the investments would help make the Louisville location even more competitive.
In a news release, the company said that its Louisville operations are generating a statewide economic impact of $4.6 billion, including $515 million in salaries and benefits for its employees. The $200 million investment, GEA said, would create 13,500 jobs across the state, including at the company’s suppliers.
While some Louisville employers have struggled to find applicants for open jobs, GEA said that it expects to be able to fill the position thanks to its wages, training, apprenticeship programs and benefits package, which includes a 401(k) retirement account, discounts on appliances and $6,000 in annual tuition assistance.
Monday’s ceremony involved local, state and national politicians, including Mayor Greg Fischer, Gov. Matt Bevin, U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth and U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, though the company said that the investments are being made without targeted financial incentives from any government — though GEA said it will get some help under the Kentucky Jobs Retention Act, which ties incentives to investment and job targets.