Former manager turns caretaker of old GE Campus
By Shibani Mahtani | Wall Street Journal
When Kevin Gilliam, facilities manager at Fort Wayne’s old General Electric Co. campus, turned off the lights and locked the doors three years ago, he didn’t think he would be back.
Mr. Gilliam, now 64 years old, went into early retirement and did long-neglected chores around the house: clearing the attic, repainting all the walls and clearing out the closets. For a few months, he worked at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo driving around a mini-train geared at young visitors.
Now, he finds himself back at the GE campus as the main caretaker, leading Indiana lawmakers, potential investors and guests around the property as it prepares to be transformed into a modern campus packed with loft apartments, office space and trendy restaurants.
On a recent tour, Mr. Gilliam, who began working at the GE campus in 1981, fiddled with dozens of keys as he opened up a heavy door leading into a building with abandoned cranes and steel beams with chipped paint, leading guests through the dark entrance. Developers hope this space will house a brewery.
When he walks through the campus alone, he said, he is still sometimes spooked out by how vast and abandoned it is, except for the odd pigeon.
Mr. Gilliam joins hundreds of other GE veterans who are hopeful that the former campus where they worked will no longer be a blight on their community. These longtime former GE workers have founded the “quarter century club,” exclusively for those who spent more than 25 years at the campus, and are in talks with developers on how to incorporate the campus’ history into its modern new iteration.
“When I drive through the area now, my mind always goes back to when it was a bustling production center and all the involvement I had—it does bring back some sadness,” said 76-year-old Weldon Schaeffer, who worked at GE’s motor division for more than 30 years. “But I’m excited that it isn’t going to end there.”