GE Commercial Finance, a division of the multinational General Electric Co., says it plans to open an operations center here within a year. The center initially will employ 150 to 200 workers, said Jeff Bornstein, vice president and CFO of GE Commercial Finance. The company is still negotiating its exact location. The announcement came during a Saturday news conference in the offices of the Big Sky Economic Development Authority in downtown Billings. Other speakers included Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., Gov. Brian Schweitzer and Billings Mayor Ron Tussing. GE Commercial Finance has $260 billion in assets, Bornstein said. The new operations center will focus on tracking and evaluating those assets which include business equipment, vehicles and revolving lines of credit in industries such as real estate, health care and financial services. Billings was among a handful of Montana cities GE considered for the center. Bornstein declined to name the other finalists but said all the cities "did an absolutely outstanding job." "At the end of the day, we added it up, and Billings was the city that came out on top," he said. Bornstein, who is based in Norwalk, Conn., cited the quality of the work force in Billings, the quality of life in the area, the city's infrastructure and the presence of Montana State University Billings and its business resources. He declined to release starting salaries at the new center but said the company would offer "competitive wages and outstanding benefits." Bornstein credited Baucus' tenacity in getting GE to take a serious look at Montana. Baucus said Saturday that he has been wooing the huge conglomerate for the past seven years. "Frankly, I think this accelerated a bit when GE very kindly and graciously agreed to come to Montana and help host our economic development summit," he said. The Big Sky Economic Development Authority put together a package of economic incentives to help bring GE to Billings, said Joe McClure, the group's executive director. It included:
$500,000 paid to GE over 10 years by BSEDA and the Big Sky Economic Development Corp. The boards of the two entities will be asked to approve the money in the next few weeks.
Seeking job-training grants of up to $5,000 per eligible posit i o n t h r o u g h t h e s t a t e Department of Commerce.
Seeking a Big Sky Trust Fund grant to offset costs of getting the facility up and running.
Applying to the Economic Development Administration of the U.S. Depar tment o f Commerce to help cover infrastructure costs.