Legislators question Malloy administration on departure of two Wallingford companies [Record Journal]

July 21, 2015

Record Journal

WALLINGFORD — Not satisfied with the response he’s received from state economic development officials, Republican Senate Minority Leader Leonard Fasano is pressing for more information on their efforts to keep companies in the state.

Fasano of North Haven and state Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, asked the state Department of Economic and Community Development earlier this month for information on its talks with Bristol-Myers Squibb and the Hallmark Distribution Center, which announced last month they would be closing their statewide operations. Bristol-Myers Squibb is located in Wallingford, which both Fasano and Candelora represent in the General Assembly.

Economic and Community Development Commissioner Catherine Smith responded on July 13, that the department has to be discrete in its dealings with specific companies because the companies present confidential financial and planning strategies that could violate U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission requirements if released.

In a letter to the state Labor Commissioner Sharon Palmer and Smith dated July 15, Fasano asked that the Rapid Response Team be dispatched to Quest Diagnostics in Wallingford to help 80 laid-off employees find new jobs or receive job training.

“It is disturbing and frustrating to see another large company moving their jobs out of state,” he wrote.

In a separate letter to Smith on the same day, Fasano stated his belief that the “public deserves to know some basic facts including if you have been in contact with any of the companies that are leaving the state and if so, when and how often,” Fasano wrote.

“The fact that these two closures came as a massive surprise to our state I think it is natural to be concerned about the level of contact your office has had with the state’s businesses regarding their apprehensions, the overall business environment in our state, and what you are learning from those interactions. That information is not confidential.”

Quest Diagnostics announced plans in 2013 to consolidate its medical testing operation in the greater Boston area. Fasano questions why a company would consolidate in another state if it was thriving in Connecticut.

“If we ignore logical thinking, we’re doing a disservice to Connecticut,” Fasano said in a phone interview Friday. “I want to know how many businesses are they talking to who are thinking of leaving, the numbers of businesses they talk to, and among those who may be thinking of leaving is there a common denominator in their reasoning? When you get no feedback, you don’t know what you’re doing.”

Smith responded Friday in a phone interview that she was surprised with Fasano’s response because no other DECD office has worked as hard as the present one to meet with state companies on a regular basis and hear their concerns.

“We certainly have our ear to the ground,” Smith said. “We’ve heard a lot about transportation, workforce training, STEM education, streamlining the permitting process; we’ve leaned up state government. We visit with hundreds of businesses per month. We’re on the road talking to people two to three times a week and contacting companies out of the blue.”

She said some of Fasano’s questions could be answered on the DECD website portal which provides information on companies that have sought help, how much they received whether it’s a loan, grant or tax abatement, and employment terms if applicable.

“From everything I’ve heard, no DECD has been as proactive as this DECD,” Smith said. “We’re starting to see the jobs come back for a lot of reasons.”
Pratt & Whitney broke ground last week on a new headquarters and engineering facility in East Hartford financed in part by $400 million in state tax credits.