Many hopeful that new hybrid water heater is the start of Appliance Park revival

By Caton Bredar - bio  | email
Posted by Charles Gazaway - email

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Members of Kentucky's Subcommittee on Energy were at GE's Appliance Park Friday morning to get a demonstration of the company's line of "smart" products and to learn more about the company's future plans.

GE executives are almost as enthusiastic as Kentucky legislators, over a new hot water heater that they say, may one day, change Kentucky and maybe even the world. The product, a hybrid or "smart" electric water heater is currently being manufactured in China. Beginning in 2011, production will move to Louisville and GE's Appliance Park. It's a move that will create 400 new jobs, and, according to the company's top officials, countless energy and economic benefits.

Jerry Carney, president of Local 761 IUE-CWA, described the huge plant at Appliance Park as virtually a ghost town, until the news of the water heater came around.

"We finally put some life back into this place," Carney said. "Who would have thought that Appliance Park could have competed with China to get this work back over here in the United States?"

"This electric water heater will save 50 percent of the power," offered Jim Campbell, president and CEO of General Electric, who added that anything energy conserving is part of the company's primary plan.

"More green, focus on energy conversation, as part of our eco-imagination initiative, that's what it's all about," said Campbell.

Costing around $1,500, the new water heaters may save consumers up to $300 annually. But company executives aren't stopping at the short-term benefits. As Kevin Nolan, vice president of technology, pointed out, Kentucky is not only competing with other states on the employment, economic and technological fronts, it's currently winning.

"Right here in Kentucky, we're really leading this," said Nolan.

Nolan also said that energy initiatives, such as the power grid Louisville is currently operating under, are serving as examples and prototypes for the entire nation. State Representative Keith Hall concurs, and adds that GE should get some credit for the work and partnership they're developing.

"You've got a business employer here in Louisville ... A huge company," Hall said. "That's a good partner with Kentucky. That utilizes our resources to employ Kentucky and put a product out there on a national level that's a partnership of all Kentucky has to offer."

With the production of the water heaters set to begin in 2011, executives are looking to the future and a future line of appliances and products that could be manufactured in Kentucky.

"We're looking at putting a product line in here, at Appliance Park, that is currently not here," said Campbell, but refusing to elaborate with any specifics.

While GE currently manufactures a large range of hybrid appliances on a limited basis, Campbell said the sky is the future provided the company can get the same financial incentives it was able to obtain for the water heater.

"Investment tax credits, energy store rebates," said Campbell. "Because these would be high efficiency products that we'd be looking to do, so anything that helps us offset the investment that we have to make in the plant and equipment."

"We worked very well with the state to get the water heater here and that went a long way to getting that program over the fence," adds Campbell. "I would expect the same level of cooperation with this project."

Copyright 2009 WAVE-TV and Raycom Media. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.