General Electric staged a groundbreaking event to mark the start of construction for a new industrial gas-engine plant in Welland, Ont., a project it stated represents a first-phase investment of $165 million. When the project was outlined last September it was described as a $265-million investment.
The plant will be an operation for GE's Distributed Power business, which designs and produces engines, and power equipment, and offers services for power generation and gas compression at or near the point of use.
Last year GE announced it would relocate its large gas engine production from Waukesha, Wis., to Canada, a controversial move that was linked to the corporation’s efforts to gain Congressional reauthorization of the U.S. Export-Import Bank. Over period of several weeks last fall, GE announced a series of decisions to invest in new plant construction outside the U.S., all linked to that reauthorization initiative. “Most countries are hungry for manufacturing and export jobs,” according to GE’s September 2015 announcement about the new plant in Canada.
The Export-Import Bank was reauthorized, but none of GE’s announced relocation of operations from the U.S. to foreign locations were reversed.
GE produces gas engines ranging in power ratings from 0.2 to 9.5 MWe, under the Jernbacher and Waukesha product labels. The Wisconsin plant employed 350 workers at the time of the 2015 announcement.
The new plant in Ontario will create 220 jobs when it begins operations in 2018. GE said it selected the Welland location for its proximity to the U.S. border, availability of skilled labor, and education facilities.
The new plant will be designed according to GE’s new, “multi-modal ‘Brilliant Factory’” concept. The manufacturer is adopting a range of data gathering and networking technologies to equip its operations for real-time reporting and supply-chain updates, in line with Industrial Internet of Things concepts to improve process efficiency, product quality, and plant profitability.