WCPO Exclusive: Reds owner talks about his role in luring GE to The Banks

Bob Castellini: I was a great cheerleader

CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati Reds owner Bob Castellini downplayed his role in bringing General Electric Co.'s U.S. Shared Services Center to the Banks.

But Castellini was the first person Ohio Gov. John Kasich called when GE expressed interest in relocating the center in Ohio.

"I was a great cheerleader," Castellini said in a brief and exclusive interview with WCPO after watching city and county officials approve incentives for the project.

"It was wonderful to watch," he said. "It's just a marvelous testimony of our ability to, when we work together, can get things done."

Cincinnati and Hamilton County cobbled together incentives worth up to $66 million to convince GE to bring a $90 million office building and $142 million in annual payroll to the Banks. A study performed by the University of Cincinnati's Economics Center said the project will generate an annual economic impact of more than $1 bilion – mostly from the creation of 1,961 indirect jobs created by companies that sell products and services to GE and its new employees.

GE received a state incentive package worth $51.6 million when it agreed to locate at least 1,400 jobs in the Cincinnati area. The company looked at two sites in Mason and another in Oakley before announcing the Banks decision Monday. In the last two months, the company has said the new center housing IT, human resources and accounting employees could eventually grow to 2,500 employees. Its deal with the city and county promises at least 1,800 jobs at the Banks by 2018, a work force that will remain in Cincinnati for at least 18 years.

In exchange, Cincinnati City Council approved a job creation tax credit worth $38.8 million over 15 years. It provides a rebate for 85 percent of all city income tax generated on new jobs at the site.

The city also agreed to a 75 percent property tax abatement worth $12.5 million for GE's 10-story office building.

Hamilton County Commissioners agreed to a 30 percent parking discount on up to 2,000 spaces for G.E. employees. That perk is worth an estimated $15 million.

In recent weeks, there has been speculation that GE was leaning toward a less expensive site at Oakley Station, but political pressures – applied by Castellini and others – led the company to select The Banks.

A GE executive who will run the new shared services center said that speculation was incorrect. GE's analysis "literally went up to today," said Joe Allen, product support systems leader at GE Aviation.

"We went in with an open mind," Allen added. "It wasn't the cheapest but the attractiveness" of the site won the day. Allen said The Banks site will be the best at attracting millennial talent and empty nesters who want to work for GE.

Become a WCPO Insider to see what others had to say about Castellini's role in landing GE and what the Reds owner said about work yet to be done at The Banks.


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