HARTFORD, CT — Aetna has had a footprint in the city of Hartford for 164 years. But that footprint might be about to get a little smaller, although no official announcement about a headquarter relocation has been made.
An Aetna spokesman said the company is 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.”
TJ Crawford, an Aetna spokesman, added: “We remain committed to our Connecticut-based employees and the Hartford campus, and hope to have a final resolution by early summer.”
Crawford said no additional details will be shared at this time.
At a 2:30 p.m. Capitol press conference Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said he has not been notified by the company of their intention to change their footprint in Connecticut, but he acknowledged that “it is my personal belief that some amount of change is coming, and that it will likely include a change in their headquarter designation, along with some number of executive positions.”
Malloy said Connecticut has offered Aetna an incentive package but that offer has not been accepted. The offer says Connecticut will meet any other states offer.
“I believe that a majority of the 5,800 jobs in Connecticut will stay here, and that they will continue to choose Connecticut as their regulator,” Malloy said.
Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin also commented on the potential move of the fourth largest property taxpayer in Hartford.
“Based on multiple conversations with Aetna’s senior leadership, I think it is clear that Aetna decided a long time ago to relocate their corporate headquarters out of Connecticut,” Bronin said Wednesday in a statement.
He said they will maintain a Hartford campus and continue to employ thousands of Connecticut residents, “but losing Aetna’s flag is a hard blow for the state and for the greater Hartford region.”
“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,” Bronin said. “Connecticut has the opportunity to be one of those places, but we need to marshal the full strength of our region and our state to invest in a strong, vibrant Capital City — 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.”
Malloy said businesses are telling government officials that they want to be in cities and Connecticut had largely failed to invest in its urban areas.
“We’re not building or rebuilding the cities in a way like a Boston has or a Manhattan has,” Malloy said.
Rumors that the insurance giant was considering relocating its headquarters to New York City were heightened Tuesday night when Kevin Rennie, a local lawyer, blogger and Courant columnist, posted that an announcement about Aetna’s departure would be happening soon.
The news comes more than a year after General Electric moved its headquarters from Fairfield to Boston. GE’s decision was based largely on the pool of young talent from universities and colleges in the Boston area, and the desire of millennials to live in metropolitan areas where they don’t have to own a car to get to work. The city and the state also offered a generous $164 million incentive package.
When that move was announced on January 13, 2016 Connecticut officials, including Malloy, declined to say what was offered to the company to stay.
Malloy sent letters to Aetna Chairman and CEO Mark Bertolini on March 6 and May 15.
He said he hasn’t received a response to either letter. He said the proposals to the company included proposals to strengthen the city of Hartford, bolster the workforce around Aetna’s needs, and improvements around transportation.
In the May 15 letter, Malloy said it was his understanding that Aetna was looking for a new corporate headquarters.
“As you consider this proposal, I ask that you keep in mind that my administration is committed to putting the state on a firm and stable financial footing that ensures a predictable economic climate, attractive to business,” Malloy wrote. “After decades of poor fiscal stewardship and leadership that swept liabilities under the carpet, I have shone a bright light on the state’s fiscal problems in an effort to right this ship.”
Senate Republican President Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said he met with a regional manager of Aetna last summer, before the proposed merger between Aetna and Humana had fallen apart.
Fasano said Connecticut’s problems figuring out how to get a handle on its long-term debt is why companies are leaving Connecticut.
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said he thinks Hartford is on the “cusp of a revitalization.” There’s the new UConn campus, plans to upgrade the XL Center, and a new minor league baseball stadium, just to name a few attractions.
“Hartford is coming back,” Aresimowicz said, adding that he has offered to speak with Aetna at any moment to “reach the right decision.”
He said the state has been looking at an ecosystem that will attract a young, talented workforce, but they can’t go back in time and change things.
“For many years, I don’t believe Connecticut had a plan for how to keep vibrant, urban economic hubs,” Aresimowicz said. “We’re more spread out. We were about the suburbs, and the cities were forgotten.”