Sen. Kane: “Can you really blame UTC?” (Hartford Courant)

July 7, 2015

Article as it appeared in the Hartford Courant

By Christopher Keating
6:55 pm, July 6, 2015

Hartford-based United Technologies Corp. is creating 380 jobs and constructing a state-of-the-art building in south Florida after receiving incentives from the state, county, and local governments.

Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican who came to Hartford 11 days ago on a recruiting tour, announced a $115 million capital investment in Palm Beach Gardens on Monday for the UTC Center for Intelligent Buildings. Reports about the UTC move emerged in March – long before Scott’s trip to Hartford.

The deal involves buying 30 acres of land on the I-95 corridor in Palm Beach Gardens that is near three major international airports.

The UTC Building & Industrial Systems, which includes Carrier air conditioners and Otis elevators, is heavily involved in the latest technologies that reduce energy consumption. UTC has long had a major presence in the Palm Beach region of Florida, including engine and test facilities in West Palm Beach for Pratt & Whitney. In addition, Otis elevators has offices in nearby Jupiter, Fla.

The company announced in a statement Monday that it “will receive incentives from the state of Florida, Palm Beach County, and the city of Palm Beach Gardens.”

Geraud Darnis, the president and chief executive officer of UTC Building & Industrial Systems, said the new structure will be “a first-of-its-kind, intelligent and sustainable customer center.”

“This living showplace will serve as a destination for the global building community, offering truly integrated, whole-building solutions,” he said in a statement released by the Florida governor’s office. “We chose Florida among other potential locations in the Southeast for its ideal climate for year-round demonstration of advanced, energy-efficient cooling technologies, as well as its proximity to existing UTC facilities and neighboring international airports.”

The company had downplayed a report on the Palm Beach Post website in March that said that UTC would construct a new office building in south Florida for $115 million – the exact total released Monday by Florida’s governor. In March, a UTC corporate spokesman referred questions back to the division that operates Otis and Carrier, and a spokeswoman there dismissed the idea as “speculation.”

The Palm Beach Post had reported that other locations under consideration were Georgia and North Carolina. The web site said the new building would serve as a regional headquarters for both Carrier and Otis.

The Florida governor’s office hailed the move as big news, including quotes from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Palm Beach County mayor, the president of the Business Development Board of Palm Beach Couny and the local Palm Beach Gardens mayor.

In Connecticut, Scott captured the attention of television and newspaper reporters on June 25 when he came to Hartford to meet with business executives on a two-day recruiting tour.

Standing outside the Hilton hotel in downtown Hartford, Scott said that Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the legislature had made it easier for him by raising taxes here. Scott said he was in Connecticut because Fairfield-based General Electric and Hartford-based Aetna and Travelers had complained publicly about a package of increased business taxes that was crafted by Malloy and the Democratic-controlled legislature. The General Assembly passed changes in the two-year, $40 billion budget that kept some taxes at their current levels.

“Right now there is a big opportunity in Connecticut because your legislature and your governor are raising taxes on everybody on families, on businesses, on everybody and you can’t pay for it,” Scott told reporters on a downtown street corner outside the hotel.

He added, “When I talk to companies, whether it’s companies out of Connecticut or other states, here’s what they say, ‘I need lower taxes. My customers are not going to pay for these taxes. I need less regulation. My customers are not going to pay for my compliance with regulations. I need an easier permitting process. If I have a problem, I need a governor who is going to respond and fix a problem.’ ”

When asked if he was visiting General Electric during his tour, Scott said that companies want to keep their relocation decisions private. He declined to name any individual companies that he was visiting, but he mentioned that GE and Aetna had gone public with their complaints. He said that many Connecticut businesses already have operations in the Sunshine State and are familiar with the tax climate.

“Pratt and Whitney is adding more jobs in Florida,” he said. “Most of these companies already do a lot of business in Florida. We’re already the second-biggest state for aerospace and aviation establishments and the third-biggest state for the number of technology jobs. … I just want them to move all their corporate offices, their regional offices, and all their back offices.”

Connecticut has gained national attention on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program as co-host Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman from Florida, has spoken repeatedly in recent weeks about the proposed increase in taxes. The state was also the subject of a negative editorial in The Wall Street Journal, which is read nationally by corporate leaders who make relocation decisions.

Malloy’s office declined to comment Monday on the UTC decision to expand in Florida.

“Can you really blame UTC?” asked Senator Rob Kane, a Watertown Republican who serves as the ranking member on the budget-writing committee. “Gov. Malloy just raised taxes again after promising not to. We did nothing to improve our business climate this year. We could soon face a new budget deficit of $1 billion. Does anyone really think taxes will go down in the near future under this governor and this Democrat-controlled legislature? Potential job creators see that we have headed down a dangerous path.
Unfortunately, we should expect more news like this.”