A good day of CT economic news in a long job for Lamont

In the span of three hours in the middle of the day on Monday, a few miles from his home in Greenwich, the governor presided over events at three Connecticut companies, each with global and growing reach; each spending millions of dollars on education, jobs, or technology with a clear statement that they support their home state.

These were all state government events, which weren’t part of the Lamont 2022 campaign calendar – we’ll have plenty of time for that in the summer and fall – but they might as well have been scripted by the Lamont’s re-election team.

Combined, the events of Synchrony Financial just off Merritt Parkway in Stamford, Mirador LLC near Stamford Harbor and Bigelow tea in the town of Fairfield, gave Lamont a chance to sell, once again, his vision for the newly revived Connecticut.

“People really believe in the quality of life here in Connecticut. They think it’s better,” Lamont told my colleague Alex Soule at the Bigelow event. The first-term Democrat spoke about education, access to parks and beaches and the state’s huge budget surplus, achieved without raising any of the state’s major taxes, three years after inheriting a shortfall of several billion dollars.

It sounds good, and it is, as many people see it. Bob StefanowskiLamont’s almost certain Republican opponent this year is not one of the believers.

“This governor has shown such blatant disregard for the struggle that people are going through,” Stefanowski said in an email, in response to my request for written comment on Lamont’s excellent adventure on Monday. “Instead of running around the state patting himself on the back, the governor should step away from the microphone and listen to people who aren’t looking through his rose-colored glasses.”

The corporate credit card

Is Connecticut better off than four years ago? Did Lamont run the economic horse race as well as voters might reasonably expect? He clearly has a lot of good news on his side, and just as clearly, the recovery has overtaken many locals.

But no problem — not crime, not the environment, not education, not the handful of state government ethics issues that Lamont says he handled properly, not even Lamont’s handling of the pandemic — does will overtake the state of the state’s economy when it comes time for voters to fill out a ballot for Lamont, Stefanowski or maybe someone else on Nov. 8.

Days as strong as Monday don’t come often. If they did, Lamont would truly be King Ned, as his opponents derisively call him. That said, were the day’s events a sign of how things are going in Connecticut, or a rising day in a falling market?

I’m a 30-year-old optimist with low expectations in Connecticut, so I’m just looking for a late-night grocery store to open and I’ll be happy. Obviously we have some signs of life, if not corned beef after 10:00.

Synchrony, the giant retailer and private label credit card provider that spun off from General Electric several years ago, opened its Synchrony Skills Academy at its headquarters late Monday morning. Funded by the company as part of a 5-year, $50 million training and education initiative, the skills academy aims to provide job opportunities and technical training to people in underserved communities. .

This means dozens of slots for selected high school students. What’s not to like about that? It was a time when big companies basically ran their own vast trade schools for new hires.

That a state is able to spark a few corporate projects like this is great, but not enough – and the lofty rhetoric from government and business leaders has reflected that. My colleague Paul Schott was there to point it out.

Fintech Fortunes

At 1 p.m., Lamont was at the soon-to-open headquarters of Mirador LLC, a company serving the wealth management industry, founded seven years ago in Darien. Mirador, which now has 100 employees, will occupy prime office space in hopes of creating an additional 250 Connecticut jobs by mid-2025.

It was the biggest win of the day. Mirador represents another of a handful of fintech companies, a nascent Stamford cluster that saw its global banking operations shrink after the Great Recession.

The financial sector has not held up well lately in this state. Even though Connecticut added about 47,700 jobs, or 3%, over the past year, jobs in finance have shrunk by nearly 1,100, or nearly 1%, in part due to bank consolidations.

Mirador will be eligible for approximately $3.2 million if it creates 250 new jobs according to a formula accessible to all companies with more than 25 jobs that add a certain percentage. That’s about $13,000 per job, about double the typical Lamont-era payout — telling us that these jobs average $200,000 per person.

That’s far less than the tens of thousands of dollars per post that former Gov. Dannel P. Malloy handed out to big, growing companies, including Synchrony, which has actually created more than 200 local jobs since 2015.

Tea for 2 million dollars

From Stamford, it’s off to Bigelow Tea in Fairfield, a rare Connecticut-based national consumer goods brand.

With 200 jobs here, the family business did not announce any new hires on Monday or a new program for the community. No, third-generation CEO Cindi Bigelow unveiled a $2 million robotic dispatch system with enough genius to wow my three colleagues on the scene — two reporters and a photographer.

You can say, damn it, it’s a nice technology, but on the contrary, it replaces jobs instead of creating them, right? Bad. Like Watchtower, Bigelow has operations in other states, each of which would have begged and probably has begged the company to invest there. So it’s a statement, as confirmed by Cindi Bigelow, that the company known for its flagship Constant Comment flavor is here to stay – and to grow.

Good optics for Lamont — let’s say he beat the steep odds — and he talked about upcoming tax breaks he’s negotiating with lawmakers.

Stefanowski was not impressed at all. “It’s always a good day when job creators like Bigelow Tea invest here in Connecticut, but the governor himself has said it’s easier for companies to start game-changing businesses in Nashville than in Stamford,” he said.

It was a reference to Lamont saying over the winter that his wife, venture capitalist Annie Lamont, would look to Nashville over Connecticut because it was easier — easier, that is. that is, to avoid accusations of conflict of interest. He never meant to say that it was easier for businesses to operate there than here, although of course that is the case.

On taxes, Stefanowski said, “While sitting on a $4 billion surplus and a $4 billion rainy day fund on the backs of overtaxed residents and businesses, it offers a few hundred million in promised tax cuts in the coming years, it shows how out of touch he is.

That’s a $4 billion surplus plus a $3 billion rainy day fund, but who’s counting? Yes, we’re drowning in short-term cash, but Lamont says he’s looking long-term, trying to pay off pension liabilities that are choking the economy. And he’s forced to live by federal rules that limit tax cuts for states that use pandemic aid in their budgets.

Unfortunately, this is a debate that only a few voters will follow. Let’s stick to the central question: how are we doing?

On Monday, the response was good. After 4 p.m., WR Berkley Corp., the big insurer in Lamont’s hometown, reported record quarterly underwriting profits.

Two hundred and seventeen days before the election. Everyone brings news. It’s gonna be fun.

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