GE Micro-factory to spur innovation through U of L - WDRB 41 Louisville News

GE Micro-factory to spur innovation through U of L

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Can Louisville be a leader in a third Industrial Revolution?

That's the goal of a collaboration between General Electric Appliances and the University of Louisville.

A once empty warehouse on U of L's Belknap Campus has been transformed into a micro-factory.

"We are going to change the way major appliances are conceived, designed, made and sold," GE Appliances VP of Technology, Kevin Nolan told a crowd on Wednesday morning gathered to mark the opening of the new operation on the corner of Floyd and Brandeis Streets.

GE and U of L are spending a couple of million dollars to build the micro-factory named FirstBuild.

"FirstBuild is a place that is an innovation center for GE to be able to have a community center where people can come in and work on insanely cool stuff," explains Bre Pettis from New York, a partner in the project, "like does your refrigerator need a pizza tray or a cup holder, all of these things can happen here."

FirstBuild is designed to create the next generation of appliances, but it wants ideas from anyone interested in innovation.

"You can get online, you can sign up, you can join our community, you can get involved, it is as easy as that," says Nolan. He also says U of L students will benefit from the partnership.

"They'll be able to take the very best in classroom instruction and theory they learn in the classroom and just walk across campus and try it out in the real world," says U of L President Dr. James Ramsey.

The opening of FirstBuild comes amid reports that GE is again trying to sell its appliance division. Ramsey says the impact of a such a sale on the FirstBuild project is unclear and would be speculative. 

"Those are rumors, we have nothing to indicate that is going to happen," says Ramsey, "I don't want to speculate but I believe there will always be a need for this facility here."

Nolan says he believes regardless of what happens at higher levels in the GE corporate ladder, FirstBuild should have a long and bright future.

"We are focused on getting this project off the ground and getting products out the door," says Nolan. 

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