HARTFORD, CT — The decision to locate Infosys’ Innovation Hub in Hartford involved an incoming governor, an outgoing governor, a number of business leaders, and the academic community.
Governor-elect Ned Lamont went to Infosys’ New York offices two or three times and then hired a car service to bring Infosys President Ravi Kumar to Michael Cantor’s law offices in Hartford almost two years ago.
The driver who picked up Kumar had some unflattering things to say about Connecticut, which had Kumar questioning his decision to listen to the man he’s now calling “Gov.-elect Ned.”
But the more he thought about it, the more it made sense to be in Connecticut.
Not every place in the country has a concentration of insurance, health care, and manufacturing, along with 36,000 college students.
Lamont said that when Kumar visited Connecticut a few years ago, General Electric had just left and the state was a little down on itself.
“It did take a little bit of convincing,” Lamont said.
But not too much.
“We’ve always had the best trained, most productive workforce in the world,” Lamont said. “That is the Connecticut calling card.”
As far as Hartford is concerned, Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said the reason Infosys is here is “because there is something big going on in Hartford right now.”
It’s not just a place that happens to be home to the insurance industry or a place where the industrial revolution happened, but Bronin said Hartford is a place where “innovation is happening now.”
He said Infosys’ commitment lines up perfectly with what’s already happening in Hartford.
“This is really what an innovation ecosystem looks like,” Bronin said, reciting all the other innovation, business incubator, and maker spaces in Hartford.
“Today is about more than just this office opening,” Bronin said. “It’s about a global company planting its flag in a place where it sees a tremendous amount of energy and change.”
Bringing an Indian technology company to Connecticut was controversial during the recent gubernatorial campaign.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski criticized Infosys for “outsourcing” American jobs. The criticism was not without merit. In 2013, the company paid a $34 million civil settlement to the Justice Department, which accused the company of abusing visa rules.
Infosys has since changed its business model.
“The future of tech service is going to be digital,” Kumar said. “And digital is going to be closer to clients, so if you want to build digital capabilities you need to build them closer to clients.”
Hartford’s location gets them closer to their clients.
Building technology and digital services closer to clients requires the company to partner with universities where they can find the talent necessary to fill the positions, Kumar said.
Kumar said they’ve hired “7,000 plus” local Americans in the last 18 months. At least 50 of those new hires are working at the Hartford hub.
Infosys has promised to create 10,000 jobs nationally and 1,000 in Connecticut. The company is opening other tech hubs in Indiana, North Carolina, and Rhode Island.
The 1,000 jobs in Connecticut comes with up to $12 million in state grants and $2 million in training funds.
Kumar said at least 1,500 of the new hires are from schools in the United States. He said they pay about $20,000 per employee to train them for 12 weeks. He said he knows it’s a risk that they would train them and they will leave, but it’s one he’s willing to take.
Kumar said he was actually surprised at how the business community came together to ask them to locate to Hartford.
He said he had to check the number when he was told Travelers Chairman and CEO Alan Schnitzer was on the phone.
“I didn’t believe it. Then I started checking the number,” Kumar said to laughs. “Then I realized it’s a local Connecticut number.”
Kumar thanked Stanley Black and Decker, Cigna, and The Hartford for reaching out.
He also thanked Trinity College for reaching out to form a unique partnership with the company.
He said they’ve primarily been hiring from STEM fields, but will begin hiring students with liberal arts degrees.
“It’s a myth that digital capabilities can only come from STEM,” Kumar said.
Joanne Berger-Sweeney, president of Trinity College, called Kumar a “visionary” who understands the value of a liberal arts education.
“Liberal arts graduates don’t merely answer the questions of today. They navigate next generation questions,” Berger-Sweeney said.
The relationship between Trinity and Infosys will have a home in downtown Hartford at Constitution Plaza.
“We think this can actually become the technology hub of the east coast,” Kumar said.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy joked that his administration got to take the heat for making the financial deal and Lamont will get the benefit of it.
Lamont would not say whether he would asked Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Catherine Smith to continue with his administration.
“To be determined,” Lamont said.
Smith opened the ceremony Wednesday reminding the more than 50 guests that “Infosys could have located their hub at any location across the country,” Smith said.
The hub is housed in 65,000 square feet on three floors in downtown Hartford.