Following reports that insurance giant Aetna is planning to move out of Connecticut, Hartford's mayor issued a response.
Mayor Luke Bronin said it was clear from conversations with the insurer's leadership that it decided a long time ago to relocate their corporate headquarters out of the state.
With roots that stretch 164 years, Aetna confirmed it is in negotiations with several states to uproot from Hartford.
Aetna issued a statement on Wednesday afternoon.
“We are in negotiations with several states regarding a headquarters relocation, with the goal of broadening our access to innovation and the talent that will fill knowledge economy-type positions," said T.J. Crawford, senior director, media relations. "We remain committed to our Connecticut-based employees and the Hartford campus, and hope to have a final resolution by early summer.”
"They have said that Aetna remains committed to its Connecticut workforce, and that the Hartford campus will continue to be a substantial employment base for thousands of Aetna employees," Bronin said. "But losing Aetna’s flag is a hard blow for the state and for the greater Hartford region."
Bronin said as a state, we need to act boldly to change the things that need to change.
"Across the country, companies are locating in places where they can recruit top talent," he said. "We don’t have to be New York or Boston to be competitive, but we have to recognize that strong, fiscally-sound, culturally-vibrant metropolitan areas are key to economic growth."
Connecticut has the opportunity to be one of those places, Bronin said.
"But we need to marshal the full strength of our region and our state to invest in a strong, vibrant Capital City," he continued. "Not at the expense of our suburbs and small towns, but for the sake of Connecticut’s economic future, because we’re all tied together.”
Aetna is Hartford’s fourth largest taxpayer, it paid nearly $8 million in taxes last year.
It employs 6,000 Connecticut workers and it is a landmark in Hartford.
This comes on the heels of GE leaving Fairfield in favor of Boston, so it's just another hit that the state will have to deal with.
Many are wondering what was done to try to keep the company in Hartford.
Gov. Dannel Malloy said “We have offered direct incentives for them to stay, up to and including matching anything put on the table from a competing state in order to keep AETNA'S headquarters and jobs here in Connecticut.”
Experts said the damage comes to the perception that Connecticut is not a business friendly state.
Quinnipiac Professor David Cadden said businesses see that the legislature can't solve the fiscal problems and are worried taxes will likely increase as a way to balance those problems.
That's not all. Cadden says GE moved from Fairfield to Boston, not just for the tax incentives, but because it's a city that appeals to its employees.
“It is my opinion that this has more to do with their desire to have executive leadership operate in a larger, more vibrant urban center than Connecticut can currently offer,” Malloy said.
The governor said he matched offers put up by other states, but is now moving forward.
“This is now a conversation about the thousands of employees they have in our state. Keeping those employees in Connecticut is far more important than where Aetna plants its corporate flag,” Malloy said.
Cadden went on to say that this could be the beginning of a snowball effect where more companies could follow suit.
In a statement on Wednesday, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton said "Aetna is believed to join General Electric, Bristol Myers-Squibb, and a host of other companies looking to leave Connecticut. This is a further continuation of what we have come to know as Connecticut’s death spiral. We need bold and decisive action to save our state.Today, I announced on social media that my team and I are investigating ways to eliminate the state income tax as quickly as possible. Connecticut flourished as a state without an income tax and has continued to decline since its implementation. Our goal is to protect the state's safety net, create jobs, while making Connecticut competitive again."
In a statement, Yankee Institute President Carol Platt Liebau said "The news that Aetna will consider leaving Hartford adds even more urgency to the fiscal and economic problems Connecticut faces. Lawmakers, state government unions and Gov. Malloy have a choice: either reform state government or get ready for more bad news."
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