In 1954, General Electric bought an open field in what was then farmland between Salem and Roanoke, and put a new factory there.
In 2016, that same General Electric bought a software company in downtown Roanoke.
Or maybe it’s not the same General Electric. This week’s news that GE has acquired Meridium provides an opportunity to understand just how much the economy has changed — and what the Roanoke Valley needs to do to change with it.
The GE of 1954 was an industrial company — that factory in the Roanoke Valley made machines that powered other factories. The GE of 2016 is trying to transform itself into what the New York Times calls “a 124-year-old software start-up.” Acquiring Meridium, a company that makes software for industrial companies, especially in the oil and gas business, is part of a much larger GE makeover.