Hugh McQuaid Photo

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy dropped in Monday on Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s relocation pitch to Connecticut gun manufacturers in an effort to show the Lone Star State’s governor some “Yankee hospitality,” he said.

“I just thought it would be an appropriate thing, since you guys were all so interested in all this, that I should welcome him to the state,” Malloy told reporters gathered in the lobby outside the Max Downtown restaurant.

Inside, Perry was meeting with representatives of several of the state’s firearm manufacturers including Colt and Stag Arms. Connecticut’s firearms industry opposed new gun regulations enacted earlier this year by Malloy and the General Assembly in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre of 20 children and six educators. One manufacturer has publicly announced plans to leave Connecticut because of the new law.

Perry announced his trip to Connecticut and New York last week. Over the next few days he plans to meet with business leaders in both states. His visit was preceded by a $1 million ad campaign encouraging businesses to consider relocating to Texas. Perry spent Monday morning touring the Colt manufacturing plant in West Hartford.

In a statement, the company called the Texas governor’s visit “cordial and informal.”

“The governor took the opportunity to try out Colt products on our firing range and assured us that we would always be welcome in Texas,” Dennis Veilleux, Colt’s president and CEO, said.

Speaking to reporters after Malloy’s brief appearance, Perry said it was “a treat” to have the Connecticut governor welcome him to the state and “a great show of hospitality.”

Andrew Doba Photo

“I told him, ‘I’m sure you’re going to show up in Texas one of these days, trying to talk a business into moving from Texas to Connecticut,’” Perry said.

At an unrelated event, Malloy said that governors do go from state to state to lure companies to invest in their home state.

“Nobody does it with quite the fanfare that he does,” Malloy said of Perry.

Malloy said he stopped by Max’s to show Perry some “Yankee hospitality.” But in the same breath he also doubted that Perry’s intentions were purely related to his job as governor.

“If I was a betting person I’d say he’s probably going to run for president yet again,” Malloy said. 

Perry denied that was the case, saying, “2016 will take care of itself.” He suggested that Malloy was deflecting.

“I think that’s a good way to deflect off a conversation that people need to have. Are your tax policies really in the best interest of your job creators? Is your regulatory climate one of which really allows your citizens to enjoy the freedoms that they can have or they should have or that they think they should have? Or are they going to relocate somewhere?” he said.

Perry said he hopes his trip to Connecticut has been perceived as a civil one. But he likened the process of states competing for jobs to a sports competition.

“It’s a rough business. I get that. But so is competition on an athletic field. I hope we can shake hands, realize that we’re just competitors. We’re all Americans first,” he said. “. . . Your governor was hospitable and civil today and I greatly appreciate that. I hope I am able to reflect that when and if other governors come to my home state, even if they’re in great competition.”

Hugh McQuaid Photo

Malloy declined to name the last state he visited in an effort to woo a company to come to Connecticut, but he said he has made those visits in the past.

Asked whether he thought the law Connecticut passed in response to the Newtown shootings was an overreaction, Perry said every state has to do what it thinks is best.

“Connecticut’s got to make the best decisions that they think are correct for the citizens of Connecticut. Whether that’s tax policy or regulatory policy or legal or education that deals with a skilled workforce,” he said.

Perry said his state has made decisions that have established a business-friendly climate. He cited Texas’ tax and regulatory policy as well as recently-adopted tort reform to protect businesses from frivolous lawsuits. He said those types of policies gave Texas a competitive edge in the race for jobs.

“We all compete against each other. And so the people at Colt, the folks at Mossberg, the people at Ruger, the financial industries, the pharmaceutical industries, they will all make a decision whether or not they want to stay in a respective state or they want to relocate,” he said. “There’s a lot of relocation going on.”

Perry said Monday’s meeting with gun manufacturers was an early step in a discussion.

“Don’t expect me to be announcing anybody relocating in the next 72 hours. This is a long process,” he said, adding that he has made similar pitches in other states. “Over the course of the next six to nine months, I would suggest to you they’ll will make decisions about does it work for them, is it in there best interest.”

John Henry Decker, a wealth advisor at MorganStanley who unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Rep. John Larson for the 1st Congressional district seat last year, attended the the Perry event.

“I thought it was important for me to see what he’s saying to our business owners,” Decker said.

He said he wanted to know what Connecticut is competing against when it comes to the fight for jobs.

Decker said Perry spoke without notes and shunned the podium when he addressed the crowd. He also had with him at the event economic development officials from various parts of Texas.

“His pitch wasn’t negative,” Decker said. “It was very direct and factual about what Texas can offer.”

Decker said Perry spoke about the mistakes made in 2001 when Texas was competing with Chicago for Boeing’s headquarters. When it came down to it, Chicago won out because the wives of the executives wanted a place rich in arts and culture, according to Decker.

Perry told the crowd that Texas has opened up several new museums and art centers as a result of that decision. Perry also dismissed the “water shortage” issues, Decker said.

At the end of the pitch, according to Decker, Perry said that he hopes this opens a dialogue between businesses and their local lawmakers.

Christine Stuart contributed to this report


Connect with Hugh: