1. Company Background
General Electric Company (GE) is a technology conglomerate that was originally started by electrical innovator Thomas Alva Edison in the 19th century.[i] Edison had been fascinated by electricity at an early age and was further inspired by the electrical exhibits at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876.[ii] That same year, Edison opened a laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey to research and conduct experiments to improve incandescent lighting[iii] and other electrical devices that he had seen in the Exposition.[iv] After successfully inventing a sturdier and longer-lasting light bulb, the lab continued to make innovations in other technologies, including devices that generated, transmitted, and controlled electric power. That same year, Edison constructed the first dynamo (direct-current generator). In 1890, Thomas Edison brought several of his companies together under one name, forming Edison General Electric. In 1892, Edison General Electric merged with its major competitor, Thomson-Houston Company (which held several patents for its development of arc lighting as well as methods for using alternating-current equipment allowing transmission of electricity over longer distances[v]), to form General Electric, which was a turning point in the electrification of the United States. The same year, GE’s stock began trading on the New York Stock Exchange.[vi] GE is the only company listed in the Dow Jones Industrial Index today that was also included in the original index in 1896.[vii] By the turn of the century, GE was manufacturing generators to produce electricity, transmission equipment to carry power, industrial electric motors, electric light bulbs, and electric locomotives. GE was diverse from the beginning, though all initiatives dealt with electricity in some way.[viii] Between 1913 and 1924, GE began to expand its business by merging with several new companies and brought us new innovations such as the television in 1927, the electric washing machine in 1934, and moldable plastic. GE introduced the line of credit in the late 1930s, the first television network, the first jet engine, and won a Nobel Prize for work in surface chemistry. Many of its discoveries have changed the world. [ix] Since the company’s inception, GE has grown to have a presence in over 100 countries and has arguably the most recognizable name and reputation. GE has continued to grow into an international company with a diverse portfolio of products ranging from jet engines, power generation equipment, financial services, plastics and medical imaging. This diverse, conglomerate structure was popular in the 1960’s and 1970’s, where many companies bought businesses that were outside their core competency so that they could better protect themselves against changes in the economy. Over the next few decades, most conglomerates broke themselves up as companies switched to a more synergistic view, where businesses believed they should stick with their core competency and with businesses they knew well. GE, however, decided to maintain a conglomerate.[x] GE has many divisions, which can be seen on the organization chart below, including: • Capital – including Commercial Finance, Money and Consumer Finance • Technology Infrastructure – including Aviation and Healthcare • Energy Infrastructure – including Energy Financial Services • NBC Universal – including Cable and Sports
• Consumer & Industrial – including appliances, electrical distribution and lighting
In addition to GE’s business diversity, it is also known for its commitment to research and innovation. In 2008, GE invested $15 billion into research, which resulted in 2,537 global patent applications and intellectual property assets. GE has received numerous awards honoring its accomplishments, values and reputation: • In 2004, GE was named the number one company for employers and employees on the...
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