Boston Wins Over General Electric

by | January 14, 2016

By Jack Encarnacao and Chris Cassidy

General Electric's move to Boston is a political home run for both Gov. Charlie Baker and Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who put aside recent frictions to present a unified front that impressed the global powerhouse.

"This opportunity would not have happened if we did not have a collaboration between the Republican governor of Massachusetts and the Democratic mayor of Boston," Walsh told the Herald yesterday.

The collaboration, sources told the Herald, set Massachusetts apart from New York, which GE was also considering, where New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, both Democrats, constantly snipe at each other.

Baker said senior managers at GE seemed impressed when he and Walsh spoke with them together for the first time last fall.

"The fact that there was no daylight between the administration at the state level and the administration at the city level," Baker said, "certainly provided a significant amount of support for the notion that not only were we working together, but we would be able to continue to work together to actually implement and execute on the plan."

The synergy continued even as Baker and Walsh found themselves at odds on expansion of the South Boston convention center, picking a new convention center authority director, and lifting the state charter school cap.

"If there is a disagreement on an issue, we have a line of communication open, and you don't make it personal," Walsh said.

GE's decision to move its headquarters here is "huge, huge win for both" Walsh and Baker, said Erin O'Brien, chair of University of Massachusetts Boston's political science department.

"It's not by accident that they're both claiming credit, but they're also both acknowledging the role and celebrating the role that the other played in bringing GE here," O'Brien said.

Jim Rooney, president and chief executive of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, said the cooperation between Walsh and Baker "sent a powerful signal to a company like GE about the political environment they were getting in."

But it appears there will still be room for some partisan rancor. Shortly after the GE announcement yesterday, state GOP chairwoman Kirsten Hughes issued a press release needling Democratic Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy for changes that increased corporate taxes and prompted GE to leave the state.

"Tax-and-spend Democrats in the Legislature should recognize that the environment of high taxes and heavy regulations created by Connecticut's Democratic governor is a road to job loss," Hughes said.

Walsh, a former state rep, was miffed by the statement.

"I think that's rhetoric that we don't need to hear right now," Walsh said. "This is a victory for the whole commonwealth."

(c)2016 the Boston Herald