Fairfield deals with loss of GE - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Fairfield deals with loss of GE

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Fairfield First Selectman reacts to news of GE's move to Boston. (WFSB photo) Fairfield First Selectman reacts to news of GE's move to Boston. (WFSB photo)
FAIRFIELD, CT (WFSB) -

The fallout in Fairfield continues after General Electric officials announced that the company is moving to Boston and now, the Connecticut city is trying to see its next move. 

Residents and town officials said there are plenty of concerns in Fairfield. Not only because of the loss of a prestigious company and all those jobs, but how this move will trickle down on so many different levels.

"It’s been part of our identity for 40 years,” Fairfield First Selectman Michael Tetreau said.

For nearly 30 years, David Saad said he has pumped gas and fixed cars at his Sport Hill Service Station on the Easton Turnpike.

"Definitely we're going to take a hit short term, who knows what's going to happen long term,” Saad said.

That's because just down the road is GE’s corporate headquarters with its 800 employees. On Wednesday, GE announced it would be moving to Boston this summer.

"They've been good neighbors, good customers, friends,” Saad said.

Tetreau said it’s a blow to the Fairfield community.

"It's a very significant loss for our town,” Tetreau said.  

Tetreau said he'll be meeting with GE officials next week to talk about the details of the move and the timing.

After that meeting, the focus is on seeing the 65-acre campus sold and make sure the town can find a new tenant.

"A lot of developments now are mixed use. It really depends on the vision of the developer,” Tetreau said. “Certainly finding another company like GE, probably not likely another Fortune 500 company to use all that space."

Those in Fairfield said it’s not just the loss of good paying jobs.  GE’s move will impact shops and restaurants along with the housing market.  

“By nature it’s going to hold down prices a bit,” Rick Higgins, of Higgins Group, said. “I don't think we're going to lose prices, but I think it could even help the market in a sense."

As for what's next, Saad said a long time customer and GE employee had some advice for him.

"She said with every negative comes a positive,” Saad said. “She was a believer, she's been a customer here.  People like that, you hope something good comes out of it."

While this loss will have an economic impact, some said other big businesses could actually benefit from GE’s move. 

"You have the feeling that the last great oak has been cut down on the hill in Connecticut,” Brian Kench, who is the dean of the college of business at University of New Haven, said.  

Kench said when it comes to being business friendly, Connecticut is just not cutting it. 

“In terms of an ecosystem, it’s hostile here,” Kench said. “They were lured to Massachusetts. They were embraced going to Massachusetts."

This summer, GE announced it would consider moving out of Connecticut following a recent tax increase. 

Kench said the tax foundation ranks Connecticut as the 44th best state to do business in while the Bay State, which is GE's future home, comes in at number 25.

On Wednesday, Gov. Dannel Malloy said while he’s disappointed, GE’s move was a clear signal that Connecticut must adapt to a changing business climate.

"They're frustrated,” said Andrew Markowski, Connecticut National Federation of Independent Business director. “They like it here. They wish they can grow and thrive here, but many of them particularly over the last five years, they've been having a very, very difficult time."

The NFIB said it has been hearing from small businesses throughout the state after GE’s announcement.

Markowski is their voice at the state capitol.

"Given the business climate, given the economic climate, the decision was not entirely surprising,” he said.

Markowski said small business owners complain of high taxes, mandates and unpredictable policies coming out of Hartford.

Kench said that's something Connecticut corporations will be well aware of.

“When this happens, it catches people's attention, so the bargaining power for the next company in line changes, so you can leverage what has happened here to your advantage in terms of potential tax breaks, etc,” Kench said

As for Fairfield, its first selectman says losing g-e is significant, but adds Fairfield has much to offer.

"That's been a great source of pride, prestige, so there is a blow in terms of our identity and who were are,” Tetreau said. "Fairfield was around before GE, we're going to be around after GE."

GE employees will move to a temporary Boston location this summer with the full move to the seaport district completed by 2018. GE will host a public briefing in Boston with government officials as well as business and community leaders on Feb. 18.

To read the full statement by Tetreau, click here. 

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