Fasano, Candelora question DECD about Bristol-Myers Squibb closing in Wallingford [Record Journal]

July 10, 2015


WALLINGFORD — Two weeks after Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. announced it would close its Wallingford facility in 2018 and relocate hundreds of jobs, State Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano and Deputy House Republican Leader Vincent Candelora co-signed a letter to Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Catherine Smith to address the agency’s role and their concerns that “Connecticut is not open for business.”

“In light of this devastating business departure, we would like to know what role DECD played in providing supports to Bristol-Myers Squibb in recent years and what your department has learned from this damaging and unforeseen decision,” the July 7 letter states.

Bristol-Myers announced on June 26 that it would close the Wallingford facility, at 5 Research Parkway, as part of its plans to expand its presence within hubs of scientific excellence and innovation,” according to the company statement. As part of the plan, 500 jobs will relocate to an undisclosed location in the state; 200 jobs would relocate to Cambridge, Mass.; and 100 jobs will be relocated to New Jersey. About 100 jobs in the virology department will be eliminated.

Bristol-Myers announced in 2013 that it would reorganize the Research and Development area of the company, but Fasano and Candelora wrote in their letter they believe the “ongoing economic challenges faced by our state influenced this decision to leave” and their concern with how it could impact future businesses.

In a phone interview Thursday, Fasano said the Democratic party and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is not making an effort to change the “pattern” of businesses leaving the state, noting the recent announcement of Hallmark closing its warehouse in Enfield and eliminating 570 jobs.

“The problem is the Democratic majority and governor believe if you have a business, you’re rich and we can tax you,” Fasano said.

Candelora added that business decisions to leave the state are not solely based on taxes.

“It’s about regulations — about how government treats our industries,” Candelora said in a phone interview Thursday. “And we need to change that behavior if we want to keep these corporate giants in the state of Connecticut.”

Mark Bergman, director of communications for Malloy, denied Thursday that the budget played a role in Bristol-Myers’ announcement. He said the budget includes “historic investments” in the state’s transportation system, “which is one of the biggest complaints we hear from the business community; that Connecticut has an aging infrastructure.”

The budget, Bergman added, caps car taxes and brings “relief to towns” to lower property taxes.

“Connecticut is making progress under Gov. Malloy,” Bergman said, “in creating 80,000 jobs, investing in small businesses through the small business express program, and keeping some of the larger businesses in Connecticut, like United Technologies.”

Fasano and Candelora are asking Smith to answer six questions related to Bristol-Myers’ announcement. They want to know if DECD met with the company over the past two years to discuss how business was going and if the department or Malloy’s office had knowledge of the job relocations and facility closing.

“If they knew early on, how come they didn’t reach out to Wallingford to say, ‘Look, this is going to happen and if so, how can we help,” Fasano said Thursday. “And if they didn’t know, it’s very interesting that DECD is that tone-deaf on what’s going on in the state.”

Fasano and Candelora are also questioning if other companies in the state are considering the same decision as Bristol-Myers Squibb.

The letter quotes Don Klepper-Smith, an economist from the state, that every job created in the drug and pharmaceutical sector creates an additional 2.9 jobs elsewhere. Fasano and Candelora are questioning the impact Bristol-Myers’ announcement could have on other businesses.
“In light of this research, we fear that this local loss could essentially mean 1,160 jobs lost elsewhere in other businesses or organizations that work with Bristol-Myers Squibb,” the letter states.

Bristol-Myers’ campus in Wallingford consists of four company-owned buildings, nearing 1 million square feet of building space, on 177 acres of land. Fasano and Candelora want to know if DECD will work with Wallingford to find a company to use the “very specialized property.”

Democratic State Rep. Mary Mushinsky also sent a letter to DECD, describing the facility and asking Smith to help Wallingford with “recruiting similar types of companies” so the campus could become another research facility or shared research facility. Mushinsky also sent a letter to the Department of Labor to see if it could assist the 100 people that are losing their jobs.

Democratic State Rep. Mary Fritz did not send a letter to DECD, she said, because the facility is not closing until 2018.

“In the meantime, I think what’s important is DECD to put together a plan and do outreach for other places to come,” she said. “I don’t expect it to be another pharmaceutical company, but that facility is so huge and so wonderful, I think it’ll be an asset to anyone.”

David Treadwell, a spokesman for DECD, said the department received the letter Thursday. He said the department did not have comments on the letter and was not in a position to talk about anything dealing with Bristol-Myers.

“We’re not in a position where we can say a whole lot; we can’t weigh into partisan politics,” Treadwell said. “We’re not in a position where we can comment on the private negotiations that may or may not be happening.”

Fasano emphasized that the state should question Bristol-Myers and learn why it made its decision. Candelora added he was concerned the state will continue to hear of future company decisions to close or move out of state because of the budget.

“It alarms me and that’s part of the reason why we sent this letter,” Candelora said. “How do we stop this? Because writing bond checks to companies and giving them grants is not cutting it.”

Both Mushinsky and Fritz, however, disagreed with Fasano and Candelora.

“I spoke directly to the company and they told me that it is not connected to the state budget or anything connected to the state of Connecticut,” Mushinsky said. “It’s strictly Bristol-Myers Squibb having a national reorganization.”