State Needs To Do More To Encourage Start-Up Companies
April 08, 2010
I still can't get over the fat-cat executives from United Technologies with their billion-dollar profits whining about Connecticut's future, but Tom Policelli has my full attention.
He's young, committed and leads a growing company with a bright future — and he doesn't know how he can stay here.
"Our company will be moving to another state if Connecticut doesn't get its act together," Policelli told me not long after my column about UTC's bad-mouthing of Connecticut to investment analysts in New York City.
As founder and CEO of Averde Health, a small start-up health plan based in West Hartford, Policelli seeks the kind of climate we desperately need to nurture here — a state that is welcoming to small, growing companies. We know that UTC won't be expanding 20th-century manufacturing here, but Policelli leads a company that wants to be part of Connecticut's future.
He's hired three new people in the past few weeks. The company expects to have 30 employees by the end of the year. He's a political moderate who has voted for Democrats and Republicans. He's aghast by what's unfolding in Hartford as elected leaders struggle with a huge deficit and a stubborn recession.
"The company is here because my wife and I were living here when I started it. But as with many new high-growth companies, our customers, markets, and employees are all over the place. We could be based anywhere in the country."
"We grew up here. I moved back here on purpose. We do have a good workforce here. We've got great people," said Policelli, who is 42. "We are all having the same conversation. How they hell can we stay here?"
Policelli, a father of four whom I met last year, told me there is a sense that he no longer can believe anything that elected officials are saying. He sees too much spending, too many taxes and too many subsidies for the big players.
"Connecticut has an unbelievable spending problem. What are they going to do? They are going to keep pounding on us," he said. "We are doing business in Austin, Texas. It has all the start-up buzz in the country. There's a lot of young companies there. You can feel the enthusiasm. And then you come home."
The thing is, Policelli still wants to build something here — he'd just like a little evidence that our leaders see him as something more than a source of tax revenue.
"We're alive and growing and, most importantly in today's economy, we are hiring," he told me.
For now, that's still in Connecticut.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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