Economy

GE Appliances is expanding its facilities in Louisville with more than $200 million in investments to expand dishwasher and laundry production. It will also add 400 jobs here, officials announced Monday.

The investments will help GE Appliances, which was bought by China-based Haier in 2016, expand its laundry and dishwasher production capabilities and expand product lines, its president and CEO Kevin Nolan said.

He said GE Appliances needs to purchase equipment for the new laundry machines and dishwashers it plans to make before it can hire. The company will bring on new employees in mostly production jobs at the end of this year and next year, he said.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer praised GE Appliances’ workforce development efforts through partnering with Jefferson County Public Schools, the city’s SummerWorks program and others.

“It’s been impressive to watch how they’ve both upskilled their workforce… and then also worked on the retention,” he said.

A recent report from KentuckianaWorks looking at manufacturing and machine maintenance jobs in Louisville projected that jobs for production workers, for example, would grow 8 percent in the next 10 years. Nationally, it estimated 11 percent growth in the same time period.

Gov. Matt Bevin addressed concerns that there may not be enough skilled Kentucky workers to fill the 400 jobs. The state still ranks among the lowest for workforce participation, he said.

“We still have a tremendous number of able-bodied working age men and women who aren’t going to work,” Bevin said. “They could work if in fact we focus on the training, if in fact we make them aware of the jobs that exist.”

With about 6,000 employees at its South Louisville factories, GE Appliances has received tax incentives for years. It switched over to a new incentive agreement ahead of this announcement.

Last week, the company received final approval for up to $40 million in tax incentives over 10 years from the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority, said Jack Mazurak, communications director for the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development. He said GE Appliances had received preliminary approval for the agreement in 2014, when it was still owned by General Electric Co. It is based on a $277 million investment and about 5,200 full-time jobs for Kentuckians.

This incentive is only available to auto and appliance manufacturers, said Mary Ellen Wiederwohl, Louisville’s chief economic development officer. She said Ford and Toyota also use the incentive.

U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell and U.S. Representative John Yarmuth appeared at the event along with Fischer and Bevin. All but the senator are running for reelection, with Yarmuth and Fischer on the ballot in five weeks.

Republican McConnell said last year’s tax overhaul makes it easier for companies to hire.

“We felt that if we could restructure the tax code, make it more likely businesses would invest not only in new equipment but personnel, we could stimulate the kind of growth you’re seeing here nationally,” he said. “We’re in a very dynamic economic period all over our country and the announcement today celebrates that accomplishment.”

This story has been updated. 

Amina Elahi is WFPL's City Reporter.