GE Healthcare plans to shift 1,500 jobs to West Milwaukee and Wauwatosa

A rendering of the proposed changes to the GE Healthcare facility at Electric Avenue.
A rendering of the proposed changes to the GE Healthcare facility at Electric Avenue.
GE Healthcare intends to invest $50 million in its West Milwaukee facility and bring more than 1,500 jobs to that facility and its Wauwatosa location, the company announced Wednesday.
A building at GE Healthcare's Electric Avenue campus in West Milwaukee.
The jobs will be moved to West Milwaukee and GE Healthcare's Wauwatosa office building and most of them will come from the company’s Waukesha campus, where it plans to sell several buildings, and other locations in Wisconsin. The company will continue to use its Magnetic Resonance buildings in Waukesha and around 600 existing jobs will stay on that campus. The exact split of jobs between the West Milwaukee facility on Electric Avenue and the offices at Research Park in Wauwatosa is still being determined and the details are delayed by “COVID-19 remote work nuances,” a company spokesperson said. GE Healthcare expects the planned move to take two to three years and still needs to negotiate with local unions before finalizing its plans. Some employees will also transfer to the GE Healthcare Institute in Pewaukee. “We saw an opportunity to better use existing capacity and make significant investments that would both reaffirm our commitment to manufacturing and product development in the state, and create an advanced medtech hub in metro Milwaukee,” said Tom Westrick, president and chief executive officer of Life Care Solutions at GE Healthcare. Even with jobs shifting between counties, the planned investment is a win for the region as GE has faced financial challenges in recent years. The company has been working to cut costs and reduce its debt, including selling its BioPharma business earlier this year for $21.4 billion. In Wisconsin specifically, GE Healthcare generates around $8 billion in direct and indirect annual economic impact, exports around $1.5 billion in goods from the state and has more than 1,000 suppliers in Wisconsin, according to the company. "Today’s announcement of intent is evidence that Wisconsin will continue to be an important base of operations within GE Healthcare’s global footprint,” said Jim Paetsch, vice president of corporate relocation, expansion & attraction at Milwaukee 7. The $50 million investment into the existing plant at 4855 W. Electric Ave. in West Milwaukee would represent one of the largest one-time investments in a U.S. GE Healthcare site. The facility was the company’s first in Wisconsin in 1947 and is currently home to production of medical imaging tubes detectors and components used for CT systems. Plans call for building a three-story engineering complex at the site along with modernizing and retrofitting an adjacent 87,000-square-foot facility at 4775 W. Electric Ave. that the company will lease. The result would be “wing-to-wing manufacturing and engineering” of CT systems. “Not only does this announcement solidify our presence in the state, but it also helps bring teams together, improve efficiency through alignment and build new capabilities. We believe that one way to be better stewards of our space is to co-locate and optimize our footprint in Wisconsin, which will in turn promote better collaboration by placing our teams closer together,” a company spokesperson said. The spokesperson declined to discuss specifics about any incentives the company could be receiving for the project. The village of West Milwaukee recently held a closed session meeting of its board, plan commission and community development authority to discuss a new tax increment district for Electric Avenue, although the agenda did not specifically mention GE Healthcare. The company’s announcement also included supportive comments from Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. CEO Missy Hughes, Milwaukee County executive David Crowley, Waukesha County executive Paul Farrow and West Milwaukee village president John Stalweski. “We’re delighted GE Healthcare has chosen to continue to invest in Wisconsin. Our state is a global manufacturing powerhouse – and our reputation is reinforced by having companies like GE call it home,” Hughes said. Crowley said the news shows “that Wisconsin can lead when it comes to advanced manufacturing.” “I am proud to collaborate with companies like GE Healthcare that are making long-term investments in our region that bolster economic equity and bring opportunity to our residents,” he said. Farrow, who is also a co-chair of the economic development organization Milwaukee 7, said he is excited by the company’s willingness to make a long-term commitment to the region. “GE Healthcare has contributed a lot to Waukesha County, and thousands of GE employees will continue to call our county home. The proposed sale of the existing GE Healthcare campus in Waukesha will open up opportunities for new economic growth in the county, while ensuring the company’s presence, along with their hundreds of local suppliers, in Southeast Wisconsin for decades to come,” Farrow said. No buyer has been identified for the available parts of the Waukesha campus, a company spokesperson said. The company’s Waukesha facilities are on around 363 acres along North Grandview Boulevard and Golf Road, just north of I-94. Collectively, the parcels have an assessed value of around $49 million.

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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He spent also five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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