General Electric Powered Schenectady Into the Electric City

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. -- General Electric's campus is a fixture in Schenectady's skyline and a constant reminder of why it's called the Electric City. The story began in 1886 with Thomas Edison.

"He needed a company to manufacture his electrical equipment," said Chris Hunter, miSci VP of Collections & Exhibitions.

Moving his Edison Machine Works from New York City to Schenectady, Edison began manufacturing generators.

"Over 35 percent of power generation in the world was built here in Schenectady," Hunter said.

It wasn't until 1892, when Edison Machine Works merged with the Thompson-Houston Company, that GE was born. They quickly began making the world's largest electric locomotives, x-ray machines, and more.

At the end of the 19th century, it established the first lab in the U.S. dedicated entirely to scientific research.

"With the founding of the GE Research Laboratory in 1900, Schenectady really became GE's invention factory," Hunter said.

It's still there today, now known as GE Global Research.

But the history of General Electric as we know it today almost never was, if it weren't for the help of some Schenectady business owners when Edison was looking to move in.

"They made an offer of $37,500 for the site. The owners of the site wanted $45,000, but the people of Schenectady, businessmen, bankers, they realized this was a great opportunity so they pooled their resources together and raised the $7,500 and gave it to Edison to complete the purchase of the property."

At it's peak during World War II, GE had 45,000 employees in Schenectady. With downsizing and other moves, there's only an estimated 7,000 employees present-day.

In recent years, GE hosted President Obama, and the Electric City continues to leave its footprint around the world.

"The traditional core products of GE were all developed here in Schenectady and then ultimately manufactured elsewhere."

All thanks to the well-know inventor and businessman Thomas Edison, who made, what turned out to be a great move.

"Without Edison making that move from New York City, there probably would never be a GE."