Jack Kramer / ctnewsjunkie
Ned Lamont and Norm Needleman (Jack Kramer / ctnewsjunkie)

CLINTON, CT—Democratic candidate for governor Ned Lamont visited what he called the “fizz capital of Connecticut” Tuesday to try and dramatize what he said was the negative impact the Trump administration’s tariffs have had on business in Connecticut.

Tower Laboratories CEO Norm Needleman, who is also running for state Senate, gave a tour of the facility, which employs 150 people in Clinton. After the tour, the two held a press conference to discuss Trump’s tariffs and the retaliatory moves taken by other countries to penalize the United States.

Until Tuesday, U.S. trade policy has not been an issue in the race with Connecticut governor. However, a recent Quinnipiac University poll found that voters’ opinion of Trump would make them 31 percent more likely to vote for Lamont and only 9 percent more likely to vote for Republican Bob Stefanowski. At least 57 percent of voters said it would have no impact. The same poll found only 30 percent of voters approve of how Trump is handling his job.

That’s likely what brought Lamont to Clinton Tuesday.

Tower Laboratories specializes in effervescent technology. It produces over 2 billion effervescent tablets annually. The tablets include over the counter and prescription drugs, medical devices and nutritional supplements.

The company also has a plant in Michigan.

The tariffs are a series of fees imposed by Trump early in 2018 on certain imports because, he said, the United States was being treated unfairly by its trading patterns.

Trump first imposed tariffs on solar panels and washing machines, and later that same year, he imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum from the European Union, Canada, and Mexico.

The tariffs angered trading partners, who implemented retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods. Canada imposed matching retaliatory tariffs on July 1.

Needleman said the net result for his company, which produces 1 million tablets per working shift, has been detrimental.

He estimated “the overall impact of the tariffs will cost us between $1 million and $2 million this year.” He said he expects to see a $500,000 yearly increase in foil packaging costs alone and another $300,000 hike in the cost the cartons used to transport the tablets. 

Needleman said so far his company has been able to absorb the losses without impacting the workforce, but it “hasn’t been easy.”

“Like all companies, we need to make money,” he said.

Jack Kramer / ctnewsjunkie
Cartons of tablets (Jack Kramer / ctnewsjunkie)

At different times during the tour and press conference Needleman criticized Trump’s tariff strategy as “whack a mole” and “shooting from the hip.”

Needleman added that he wasn’t enamored with the new trade agreement Trump announced that he had reached with Mexico on Monday. “We had a good deal with Mexico and Canada already,” he said.

Lamont was asked what responsibility a governor has in setting policy or trying to change policy on tariffs when there are so many other issues confronting the state of Connecticut these days – from talk of tax reductions, discussions about multi-billion dollar deficits to whether or not to install tolls on state highways.

“A tariff is a tax,” Lamont answered. Besides that, he added: “Tariffs impact jobs,” stating that if people don’t understand that, “You are crazy.”

“I can work closely with the Congressional delegation as governor to work against such a trade policy,” Lamont said. “This trade policy impacts the state of Connecticut.”

“We are an export oriented state,” Lamont added. “And you need a governor who understands that.”

Needleman added: “Every single governor in the United States has a Norm (Needleman), stating he meant a business owner who is suffering the impacts of the tariff initiative.

Lamont said that his opponent, Stefanowski, has aligned himself with Trump’s policies by giving the president an “A” during a pre-primary debate.

“I urge Bob Stefanowski to say no to this trade war,” Lamont said.

Without commenting on where Stefanowski stands on trade policy, Kendall Marr, Stefanowski’s communications director, refocused the discussion on economic growth and taxes.

“It’s ironic that Ned Lamont is talking about our state losing jobs, considering his desire to raise taxes yet again after eight years of the disastrous Malloy administration,” Marr said.

“Those policies have directly resulted in the loss of thousands of jobs and decimated Connecticut’s economy,” Marr added. “Stefanowski’s plan to hold the line on state spending and lower taxes will provide relief to businesses struggling to cope with the Lamont-Malloy economy.”

Needleman said if something isn’t done, soon, to alleviate the impact of the tariff war, that people in Connecticut will see and feel the impact.

“We’re going to have to see our prices increase,” he said adding those price increases will eventually trickle down to the consumer.