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GE Investing $432M To Revamp Appliance Business

GE will spend $432 million to establish four U.S.-based refrigeration design and manufacturing plants for the company's new energy efficient line of appliances.

NEW YORK (AP) -- GE plans to spend $432 million to establish four U.S.-based refrigeration design and manufacturing centers that will be the focus for its new energy efficient line of refrigerators and other appliances.

General Electric Co. said Monday the move will create 500 new jobs by 2014 and help preserve another 1,166 existing positions.

GE said its investment is an effort to revitalize its appliance business and take advantage of increasing global competitiveness of U.S. factories.

The centers will be at existing locations in Louisville, Ky.; Bloomington, Ind.; Decatur, Ala., and Selmer, Tenn.

The new refrigeration centers will bring product design teams and manufacturing operations together to streamline design and production using lean manufacturing processes. GE said this will drive down costs by making the manufacturing process more efficient and improve product quality.

At its Louisville location, GE will invest $194 million and create 300 jobs to establish a center for bottom-freezer refrigerators, a new product for that facility.

The Bloomington facility, which had been scheduled to close, will receive $93 million in investment and create 200 jobs to become GE's home base for new side-by-side refrigerators.

In Decatur, Ala., where GE's popular top-freezer models are made, GE will invest $43 million to create a center for top-freezers and "green" manufacturing. Coupled with $16 million spent earlier this year on a new product insulation process, GE said the combined $59 million investment will help retain the more than 1,000 jobs at the site.

GE's Monogram Refrigeration unit in Selmer, Tenn., will receive $32 million to redesign the built-in refrigeration line made there. It said that will help retain the 166 jobs there.

GE has been focusing on making products ranging from wind and natural gas turbines to sonogram machines to energy-efficient appliances, while it de-emphasizes its finance unit, GE Capital. That unit accounted for more than half of GE's profit in 2006 during a boom in financial services, but recorded billions in write-offs when the economy went into recession.

So far the results are mixed. While GE has struggled to grow sales, its order book is showing signs of life. Overall, U.S. production of appliances is still weak because of its close relationship to the beleagured housing market.

GE shares fell 16 cents to $16.14 in midday trading Monday.
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