General Electric Co. announced plans Monday morning to invest $161 million in a Bloomington refrigerator plant that it previously planned to close, creating 200 jobs by 2014.
The investments will include $93 million to upgrade the plant and $68 million to redesign the product line at the facility.
Connecticut-based GE announced in January 2008 it would close the 1 million-square-foot plant due to declining sales of side-by-side refrigerator units and rising material and labor costs.
However, GE said in July 2009 that federal incentives for energy-efficient appliances could result in the plant’s staying open until 2013 or longer.
About 190 workers at the plant were laid off last fall, due to sluggish conditions, leaving about 530 employees.
The Indiana Economic Development Corp. offered GE up to $2.25 million in performance-based tax credits based on the company's job-creation plans.
The company plans to hire additional assembly and supervisory associates as new equipment and appliance models are phased in at the plant. The new side-by-side refrigerator models to be produced in Bloomington will meet anticipated high-efficiency Energy Star criteria as well as the 2014 U.S. Department of Energy efficiency requirements.
GE has operated a refrigerator plant in Bloomington since 1967, at times employing as many as 3,000 people. The plant began downsizing significantly about a decade ago after shifting some production to Mexico.
In addition to Bloomington, GE this morning said it would spend millions to upgrade refrigerator plants in Louisville; Decatur, Ala.; and Selmer, Tenn.
The four refrigeration centers will bring product design teams and manufacturing operations together to streamline design and product manufacturing using lean manufacturing processes. GE said this will drive down costs by making the manufacturing process more efficient and improve product quality.
The Louisville plant will receive an investment of $194 million and begin making bottom-freezer refrigerators. The investment is expected to result in 300 new jobs at the plant, which also makes water heaters, washers and dryers.
Overall, GE said it would invest $432 million at the four plants, creating 500 jobs and preserving another 1,166 existing positions.
In Decatur, where GE's popular top-freezer models are made, GE will invest $43 million to create a center for top-freezers and "green" manufacturing. Coupled with $16 million spent earlier this year on a new product-insulation process, GE said the combined $59 million investment will help retain the more than 1,000 jobs at the site.
GE's Monogram Refrigeration unit in Selmer will receive $32 million to redesign the built-in refrigeration line made there. It said that will help retain the 166 jobs there.