EAST HARTFORD, CT — In what felt like a campaign event, Gov. Ned Lamont met with union workers from Pratt & Whitney and Collins Aerospace in the parking lot of Augie & Ray’s on Wednesday.
Speaking to the group, Lamont asked if they liked the “good news that all these good-paying jobs are staying right here?”
“They’re not going anywhere,” he added.
The governor announced Tuesday that he’s received a commitment from United Technologies Corporation, the parent company of Pratt & Whitney, that they will be adding 1,000 jobs in Connecticut over the next few years. He’s also received a commitment that Otis, which UTC is spinning off, will remain headquartered in the state.
“I spoke to the new president of Otis this morning,” Lamont said. “Otis is sticking around.”
Carrier, the other company UTC is spinning off, moved its headquarters to Palm Beach Gardens, Florida in April 2018.
The United Technologies Corporation merger over the weekend with Raytheon Co. in Waltham, Massachusetts caused concern for Connecticut officials who are fighting against the desire by some major companies to move to more metropolitan areas with high concentrations of highly educated workers and entrepreneurial ecosystems.
UTC Chairman and CEO Greg Hayes told Fox Business Wednesday morning that they’re not leaving Connecticut because the taxes are high.
“That’s patently false,” Hayes said.
“Connecticut remains a big, big base for United Technologies. We’ve got great people. We’ve got great technology. Otis is going to be headquartered there. Pratt & Whitney is headquartered there,” Hayes said. “Moving from Connecticut to Massachusetts, it’s not like you’re going from high-cost to low-cost. The fact is we think that there’s a huge talent base up in Mass. in the Boston area that will help us in the long term in terms of recruiting talent. But this is not about Connecticut being a bad place to invest or a bad place to be. They’re getting their fiscal house in order, which is the key to long-term success in Connecticut.”
Workers at Pratt & Whitney and Collins Aerospace who spoke with Lamont on Wednesday also said they don’t believe their jobs building and repairing jet engines will be migrating north or south anytime soon.
Paul Duff, a trustee of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local 743 and a repair technician, said the merger between UTC and Raytheon is still “kind of a shock.”
On the other hand, they are very busy with work and “as long as it doesn’t affect the growth,” then Duff doesn’t see any downside to UTC moving some corporate executives to Boston.
“They always take the face of somebody else. It’s just a common practice here,” Duff said about the decision to ditch the UTC brand. The new company will be called Raytheon Technologies Corp.
Duff said Connecticut has the schools and the workforce training programs to provide the future workforce. Besides, “it’s in our blood to be doing this kind of stuff,” Duff said.
Mary White, president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local 62A in Cheshire, said this is the 12th time the name has changed in 22 years. She said it seems to be every two years they acquire a new company and assume the name of the company.
“We’re still there building our product,” White said. “Nothing should change that.”
Last November after the election Lamont said that he would watch the UTC spin-off of Otis and Carrier “like a hawk,” but he said securities law would not have allowed him to get the news of the Raytheon merger first. However, he joked that Hayes called him before President Donald Trump, so he had “relatively early warning.”
Lamont, whose press office advised reporters of Wednesday’s stop in East Hartford, said he wasn’t planning to do a press conference. But he proceeded to offer some remarks and answer some questions about what he sees as the state’s role in this situation.
“Boston is a big, major city,” Lamont said. “And when it comes to recruitment we’ve got to do a better job of bringing our cities to life … We’re working on that every day.”
What will Lamont’s administration do to make Connecticut’s cities more attractive to developers?
“Let us get going on a 21st Century transportation system that has Hartford, New Haven, and Bridgeport as transportation hubs so we get easy rail access to and from,” Lamont said, adding that cities are always the anchors of a transportation system.
Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz also suggested investing in education as an important part of attracting companies and workers to stay and live in Connecticut.
“State aid to education, especially in our cities, didn’t go down — it went up despite our deficit,” Lamont said. “Municipal aid we held steady, which was really important to holding down property taxes in those areas.”
However, Connecticut’s legislature might be sending some mixed messages on that issue.
The budget repealed a $500 state income tax credit for college graduates in the STEM fields.