Less than six months before Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is up for re-election, his Department of Economic Development plans to spend nearly $600,000 on two television ads to promote Connecticut’s business climate.
The commercials feature Dr. Edison Liu, CEO of Jackson Laboratory, Vivian Akuoko owner of Evay Cosmetics, Nicole Russo president of Microboard Processing Inc.; Princell Hair, executive vice president of NBC Sports Group, Austin McChord, CEO, of Datto Inc., and Chris Hocevar president of CIGNA Select.
The two ads feature the executives talking about why they chose to grow in Connecticut. Russo talks about competing with China and Mexico from Connecticut, Hair talks about consolidating operations in the state, and Liu talks about the innovation taking place at his company.
Neither of the two commercials mention that the companies featured in the ads received grants, tax breaks, or assistance from the state, but state officials said the impetus behind the ads is to lure out-of-state companies to Connecticut. The ad directs viewers to the website www.ctforbusiness.com where they are able to get more information about the various economic development programs offered.
The ads will run in the Hartford and New Haven markets for six weeks in May and June and five weeks in the New York City, Northern New Jersey, Long Island, Westchester, New York, and Fairfield, Connecticut. About 92 percent or $526,416 will be spent on the New York market buy and 8 percent or $43,221 will be spent in the Hartford and New Haven market.
The ads are supposed “to communicate that Connecticut’s on the move. That we have programs that allow businesses to grow and come to our state and we’re tired of looking at New York’s ads and Massachusetts’ ads,” Malloy said Monday after an unrelated event. “And we need to communicate with our own employers about the programs we have.”
The Connecticut Republican Party criticized the ads Monday saying there’s a fine line between “promoting our state and using taxpayer money for a campaign.”
Zak Sanders, a spokesman for the Republican Party, said “Gov. Malloy has repeatedly crossed that line.”
Malloy defended the advertising. He said the bulk of the ad isn’t being spent in Connecticut but “we wanted to make sure we got the message out to Connecticut companies.” He said the decision to air the ads in Connecticut is a reaction to the ads other states like New York and New Jersey are running here to try and “poach” in our state.
“Join the growing businesses building their future in Connecticut,” the narrator in the ad says as “50,000 new jobs added” flashes in print at the bottom of the ad.
Asked about the Republican criticism, Malloy said the state has spent money on these types of ads every year since he has been governor and Republicans haven’t complained until this year.
He said Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. supported a candidate who published an annual state report containing numerous images of the candidate.
The ads don’t feature Malloy in any way similar to the $1 million 1998 tourism ad featuring former Republican Gov. John G. Rowland and his wife, Patricia.
“I’m not in these ads,” Malloy said. “I’ve never done that. Never did it as mayor of Stamford. Not doing it as the governor of the state of Connecticut.”
When Rowland released the state tourism ad in May 1998, Democrats complained. Chief among them was Jonathan Pelto, who at the time was running Barbara Kennelly’s campaign for governor. Pelto, who may run for governor himself this year, at the time, according to the Hartford Courant, accused Rowland of “using state dollars to buy image ads in the middle of the election season.’‘
Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, who is running for the Republican nomination for governor, called for the ads to be removed.
“These ads should come down immediately,” Boughton said. “It’s time for the Malloy administration to face the facts on Connecticut’s economy, not spin them.”