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Bad-Mouthing Your Home State? It's Not Just Boorish; It's Bad For Business

Rick Green

March 19, 2010

We've got problems, but if I'm Gov. Green, there's one I'm tackling right off.

Self-serving, profit-mad corporate executives who go to New York and insult my home state for all the world to hear.

I heard Gov. M. Jodi Rell the other day say that she doesn't blame United Technologies Corp. executives for their ungrateful trashing of Connecticut before Wall Street analysts.

I've been waiting in vain for more of our leading politicians to stand up to these uncouth bullies. It must be difficult for these executives to seem grateful when their pockets are stuffed with cash.

Instead of suggesting that she understands the UTC trash-talking of the home team, I wish Rell would yank UTC chief executive Louis Chênevert and his cohorts into her office by the scruff of their Brooks Brothers suits, slam the door and tell them to keep their %&# mouths shut. Then I would bring everyone out to meet the press — all smiles — to declare our commitment to making Connecticut an even better place to make billions of dollars.

Instead, we have business "leaders" telling the world that "anyplace" is better than Connecticut. Does this include their suburban McMansions and country clubs?

Please, don't tell me these wise men are doing us a favor. With friends like this, we don't need enemies. Urging the world to stay the hell out only serves UTC and its growing list of suitors.

Perhaps UTC — which earned almost $4 billion last year — has forgotten what nasty old Connecticut has done for it.

For generations, we have provided Chênevert's company with what Connecticut has produced for centuries — highly skilled labor. These employees have been paid well — and, in turn, UTC has reaped the financial rewards.Whenever an important defense budget item was in question, UTC has always been able to count on aggressive lobbying from its unions and support from our influential members of Congress. To UTC, "anyplace" is apparently better than an F-35 Fighter contract.

At least Chris Dodd was reminded of this when he called the UTC remarks "a slap in the face." It's more like a cheap shot below the belt.

"People I work with have dedicated 25 and 30 years of their life and more to making this company successful," said Wayne McCarthy, president of the Machinists union local. "It's not like you are dealing with a company that is not profitable or falling on hard times. It's quite the opposite."

Last year, when UTC said it would pull jobs out of Cheshire and East Hartford, the state begged it to stay, offering $100 million. UTC had to be ordered by a judge not to eliminate the jobs.

These highly paid manufacturing jobs will eventually fall victim to the World-Is-Flat economy. So what's the point of sticking a finger in our eye, Mr. Chênevert?

Oz Griebel, the Republican Father-Knows-Best candidate I secretly might vote for, tried to explain that "there's a strong message that Chênevert has been trying to convey. They are hardly the only company that is looking for other alternatives."Sorry, Oz. In this case, Juan Figueroa, a Democratic candidate for governor, has it right when he labels the UTC comments as "just insulting."

"This is certainly not the way to build a relationship," he said. "A partnership means that you don't go off and start shooting from the hip in a venue like New York City in the middle of an investor conference. Come on."

I understand globalization and building manufacturing plants in China, Turkey or anywhere else UTC can find cheap labor. But if our state is going to find a path in this new world economy, we don't need the cleanup hitter telling anyone who might think about expanding or coming here, "don't bother."

I'm not ranting because I support tone-deaf Democrats in the legislature who are pushing more corporate taxes and an ill-timed bill mandating sick leave. But please, UTC isn't a struggling mom-and-pop outfit.

It earns billions of dollars in profits. Elected leaders treat it like royalty. UTC has had a very good run in Connecticut.

We deserve more than boorish trash talk.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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