General Electric has dropped the Dallas-Fort Worth area as a site for a possible headquarters move because of concern that Texas’s political climate is unfavorable to the company’s business, people familiar with the matter said.
GE informed local leaders in recent days that it would look elsewhere for alternatives to its Connecticut home, said the people, who asked not to be identified because details aren’t public. They said GE cited opposition to reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank by some Texas lawmakers, including Rep. Jeb Hensarling and Sen. Ted Cruz.
The Ex-Im argument adds a new dimension to GE’s evaluation of office options outside Fairfield, where it has been based since the 1970s. Rising taxes make Connecticut a tough place for growth, according to GE, one of the biggest U.S. exporters and a maker of products including lightbulbs and locomotives. GE has also looked at Atlanta, among other locations, people said.
GE declined to discuss its Texas plans and instead provided a statement originally released in June saying the company “is taking many factors into consideration” in any move.
Fort Worth officials, including Mayor Betsy Price, reached out to General Electric earlier this year to pitch the city as a possible headquarters site, said David Berzina, executive vice president for economic development at the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce.
He said GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt is familiar with Fort Worth because of the company’s manufacturing facility located west of the Texas Motor Speedway, where GE employs more than 500 workers who manufacture locomotives and mining equipment.
Earlier this year, Gov. Greg Abbott wrote personal notes to top executives at GE and other big Connecticut companies, urging them to consider a move to Texas after their state lawmakers raised corporate and personal income taxes.
The Ex-Im bank’s charter expired June 30, when Republican members of Congress blocked a reauthorization vote, eliminating a source of credit for U.S. companies seeking export sales. GE has benefited from that financing on international orders, especially for its jet-engine business.
Texas Republicans, including Hensarling, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, helped lead the charge against the bank, saying the federal agency used taxpayer money to benefit large corporations and foreign interests. The congressman’s office said in a statement that if Ex-Im stances are influencing GE’s choice, “they are going to have to bypass pretty much every state, including Georgia.”
“Most companies base important decisions like this on low taxes, a skilled workforce, a fair legal system and quality of life, which is why everyone knows there is no better state to do business in than Texas,” Jeff Emerson, a spokesman for Hensarling, said via email.
GE’s international customers received almost $1 billion in credit assistance from the bank last year, according to an Ex-Im annual report. Immelt said in June that the company would move manufacturing work and jobs out of the U.S. if the bank isn’t reauthorized. Some lawmakers are working to revive the agency.
GE also has held exploratory talks in Atlanta as the company weighs a move to a 30-story building under construction near the city’s financial center, the people said. GE isn’t close to a deal and is considering locations in other states, the people said.
Deputy Managing Editor Steve Kaskovich contributed to this report.