General Electric's Pittsfield Legacy

A gate leading to the former GE site in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
Credit Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPR

October marks 20 years since General Electric Co. signed an agreement to clean up PCBs the company had dumped in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Back then, the community was not only grappling with widespread contamination, but also the aftermath of losing thousands of GE jobs in the city.

For decades, multiple generations in many Pittsfield families worked at GE. The company provided workers — even those without experience — a way up. Workers got good pay and benefits. They could buy a house, a car, and even get a pension — the kind of job that’s almost unheard of today. 

NEPR's Nancy Cohen explores the economic and environmental legacy GE left behind in Pittsfield, where only a small staff for the company remains.

In July, Bright Abbey opened Omega1 African Fashion, a new clothing store in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPR

Many tout the arrival of online furniture mammoth Wayfair and its 300 new hires in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, as a big win. That doesn’t compare to the nearly 14,000 jobs that once existed at General Electric Co. — but those working to shape a new economy in the Berkshires aren’t looking for another GE.

Al Bertelli worked as an assembler in the power transformer division at General Electric Co. in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPR

This month marks 20 years since General Electric Co. signed an agreement to clean up PCBs the company had dumped in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.