Obamacare Final Tally For State: Good First Year, Much More Needed

by Categorized: Government, Health Care, Insurance Date:

The final numbers are in for Connecticut residents signing up for health care at Access Health CT, the state’s exchange under the Affordable Care Act. Results for people who met the March 31 deadline show the agency exceeded its goals with a surprisingly high number of Medicaid enrollees.

What we don’t know is how many of the newly enrolled Obamacare customers were previously uninsured. But we do know that on that score, the state still has a long way to go.

Nationally, President Obama announced Thursday that the state exchanges, mostly run by the federal government, reached 8 million enrollees by mid-April — exceeding a 2013 Congressional Budget Office estimate of 7 million. And he said 28 percent were between 18 and 35.

Click here for a White House fact sheet on Obamacare progress.

We’re still hearing reports of problems with the system, including very high prices for people on the individual market who are not eligible for subsidies, and concerns by many that they must keep their incomes under key thresholds.

It’s too soon to say whether the mix of enrollees in the private plans — age groups and health profiles — will be adequate to avert sharp increases for 2015. But with an estimated 47 million Americans lacking health coverage, it’s clear that Obamacare in 2015 will have to accelerate.

OVERALL CT:

  • Total Enrolled: 208,301
  • Unofficial Goal Set In 2013: 100,000-130,000
  • Total Uninsured In Connecticut Before Obamacare: About 300,000
  • Total Uninsured Now: ?????
  • Next Open Enrollment Date for 2015 Coverage: Nov. 15, 2014
  • Who Can Still Enroll In 2014? Residents with life changes such as marriage, divorce, birth, adoption or loss of employer’s insurance coverage

PRIVATE PLANS

  • Total Enrolled In Private Plans Through Exchange: 78,713
  • Unofficial Goal Set In 2013: 70,000
  • Federal Target for Private-Plan Enrollment In CT: 33,000
  • Private Plan Enrollees Receiving Federal Subsidy: 61,400
  • Enrolled And Later Dropped Out (not counted in total): About 7,000

MEDICAID

  • Total Enrolled In Medicaid: 129,588
  • Unofficial Goal Set In 2013: 30,000

 

 

 

 

UConn Recruiting Loss Is Good for The Sport And For UConn

by Categorized: Entertainment/Tourism, marketing Date:

Don’t tell this to Geno Auriemma, but the decision by A’ja Wilson to play for her home state university in South Carolina instead of UConn should be good news for UConn fans.

hc-aja-wilson-decision-0417-20140416-001

A’ja Wilson, a McDonald’s All-American
Brian Spurlock / USA Today Sports / March 30, 2014

 

Sure, the imperial UConn women’s basketball dynasty would have grown if the 6-foot-4 guard-forward, ranked highest in the nation among high school seniors, had brought her talent to Storrs.

But let’s be honest here. The product — big-time women’s college basketball — stinks. We’ve got one dominant program, maybe a half-dozen Baylors, Notre Dames and Stamfords below that and then the bottom caves in.

That’s not good business and it’s not a formula for true success. Kudos to A’ja Wilson for showing hometown loyalty.

Competition makes sports.  Red Sox-Yankees. Federer-Nadal. Celtics-Lakers.  Deeper down, it’s about parity. The American Way. Everybody has a chance.

The NFL is the most successful league in the country, not least because football is a national sport with huge shared revenues. We’ve had seven different Super Bowl winners in the last eight years and ten different teams competing in the last five Super Bowls.

Think it’s all about winning? From 1996 to 2000, the five years when the Yankees won four World Series, they averaged 34,949 fans per home game. From 2004 to 2008, with zero World Series appearances: 51,190.

My colleague, the great sports writer Dom Amore, who covered the Yankees in the 2000′s, says that was due to a delayed effect, not parity. The Yankees made the playoffs in all of those years. Still, multiple rivalries helped the team’s gate.

And let’s look inside each game. How much actual UConn women’s basketball game action did you watch this year, from the tip-off Nov. 9 against UHartford to the last, victorious dribble in Nashville? Admit it — you switched to ESPN2 in the dull middle of the second half against Notre Dame to watch highlights of the amazing 2011 Masters tournament.

A breakdown of the historic 40-0 season, not including two silly exhibition games that the Huskies won by 65 points, tells the one-sided story:

  • Wins by 50-plus: 8
  • Wins by 40-49: 7
  • Wins by 30-39: 9
  • Wins by 20-29: 8
  • Wins by 10-19: 8
  • Wins by less than 10: 0

So as a UConn fan, say it loud: Thank you, A’ja.

State Offers $6.5M To Corporate Relocation Firm To Stay — And Grow

by Categorized: Economic Development, Real Estate Date:

No one knows how to move out of state like the folks at Cartus Corp., a Danbury company that offers relocation services such as home-buying and rentals to corporations.

So the state stepped in with a $6.5 million forgivable loan at 2 percent interest after Cartus, a longtime Connecticut presence, thought hard about moving to Texas or New York.  Cartus will keep the whole $6.5 million if it maintains its current local staff of 1,275 and adds at least 200 more people in the next five years.

Cartus will also invest $15.4 million in a facilities upgrade, as part of its state-aided expansion. And if the company keeps its staff intact for five years and doesn’t add more people, it will be allowed to keep $1.95 million of the loan principal.

All in all it’s a good deal for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the state taxpayers, a cost of about $32,000 per new job if Cartus adds 200, or $4,400 for each job added or retained if we count 1,475 present and future jobs.

The deal is not part of Malloy’s “First Five” program, also called “Next Five,” because the total invested by Cartus is less than the threshold for that program. But each deal is custom-designed anyway.

And for each deal, we ask, would the company have really left? That’s the question we can never answer. Cartus and its parent company, Realogy Holdings Corp., were part of the old Cendant Corp., which broke up a few years ago. Realogy, traded on the New York Stock Exchange, also owns Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, CENTURY 21, Coldwell Banker, ERA, Sotheby’s International and other real estate businesses.

“Cartus has been proud to call Connecticut home for nearly 60 years, and we are committed to growing our operations here,” said Kevin Kelleher, the Cartus CEO “This new investment will position the company for future success.”

Now that Cartus is staying, we’ll have a home run if Malloy and his economic development commissioner, Catherine Smith, can get Cartus to move more people into Connecticut than out.

 

 

 

Moe’s UConn Burrito Giveaway Totaled $435,000

by Categorized: Entertainment/Tourism, marketing, Small Business Date:

If there’s anything we like more than basketball championships it’s food discounts, and Moe’s Southwest Grill won the prize last week with $1 burritos after the dual UConn titles, capping a season-long discount worth $435,000 for Connecticut fans.

On April 9 alone, the one-dollar day, the 16 Moe’s franchises that participated ladled up discounts of about $140,000 to 20,000 customers, the co-owners of a group of Moe’s stores said Thursday.

The Moe’s stores rolled out the $1 offer — for burritos that averaged $8 at the regular retail price — after the men’s and women’s teams both won national championships.

For Dave Vorchheimer and Matt Rusconi, co-owners of a group of seven locations, the busiest were in West Hartford and Storrs, where about 200 people an hour lined up from opening to closing time on April 9.

“Up at UConn, Shabazz and the guys came in,” said Rusconi, who led the charge at that store. Yes, Shabazz Napier and the other “Hungry Huskies,” about four teammates, paid a buck for their burritos.

The partners have been sponsors of UConn basketball for five years, since the time when they owned just one Moe’s location, at West Hartford’s Blue Back Square. “We can’t explain how proud we are,” Rusconi said. “There was a huge party and we were proud to be a part of it.”

After every UConn home win, the Moe’s stores offered a free side of queso, worth $1. And the price of a burrito dropped to $5 for one day after the teams made it to the Sweet 16’s; then $4 for a day after they won their way into the Elite 8’s; then $3 for a day after they reached the Final Fours. Seventeen locations participated during the tournament, but one, at a highway rest area, did not offer the $1 burrito last week.

One customer came in after the $1 day, Vorchheimer said Thursday, and said, “I’m glad you guys are still here, with the discounts I was afraid you wouldn’t be here anymore.’”

But of course, the stores’ actual cost wasn’t as large as the discounts.  And even though they never guessed they’d have to offer burritos for a buck, the owners figure 500,000 people paid attention to the promotion — and they’d absolutely do it again.

“It costs you a lot of money to make that many people open their eyes up,” Vorchheimer said. As for the wins, “a state without any professional teams, this is probably as exciting as it gets.”

“The staff was going crazy, working their tails off,” Rusconi said. “We were running around the state, transferring food…These guys dug in, man. They all did.”

NOTE: An earlier version of this post had an estimate of $120,000 for the value of the April 9 promotion, and said the $3 offer followed the men’s championship.

Democrats Using Gun Control As A Weapon

by Categorized: Firearms, Politics Date:

It’s clear that Connecticut’s post-Newtown gun control law will play a loud role in the legislative campaigns and we expect Second Amendment advocates to attack supporters. But Democrats are also using the issue as a weapon against anyone who hints at opposition.

That leaves Republicans who voted for it — most prominently Sen. John McKinney, the candidate for Governor who helped negotiate the law — caught in the middle if they make one false move, or even if they don’t.  And it leaves Democrats who voted against the law, including Rep. Linda Orange, facing a battle from the left.

The state’s Democratic Party issued a breathless release Wednesday morning, titled “SHOCKER: John McKinney Says He Would Repeal The Gun Control Bill ‘SB 1160.’”

It looked big. But that’s not what McKinney said.  The Democrats, who attend and record many events of McKinney and other GOP candidates for governor, issued a YouTube Video and a transcript showing McKinney answering a question at a meeting of the Quiet Corner Tea Party Patriots in Putnam.

QUESTION: …if Republicans took over the General Assemblyand if they put forward a repeal of SB 1160if you were elected governor, would you sign that?

MCKINNEY: If the legislature repeals something, I think the governor owes a great deference to what the legislature does, and I would.

McKinney spent two hours with the group of about 30, all of them opposed to the gun control law, he recounted to me Wednesday.  He explained to the group that he continues to support the law, though it contains some measures he would not have added.

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UConn Parade Raises, Spends $90K; How Much Economic Benefit?

by Categorized: Economic Development, Economy, Entertainment/Tourism Date:

The final tally is in for Sunday’s UConn victory parade in downtown Hartford: Exactly $90,000 raised from 23 corporate sponsors.

And that’s exactly how much the Hartford Downtown Improvement District, the organizing group, will spend, said Mike Zaleski, executive director. As of midday Monday the bills totaled $86,500.

The most important economic effect of the UConn celebration: Cheerleading for Hartford. Dan Haar/The Hartford Courant

The most important economic effect of the UConn celebration: Cheerleading for Hartford.
Dan Haar/The Hartford Courant

The figure is up from $50,000 that Zaleski has set last Wednesday as a minimum needed to mount the celebration, and it’s up from the $70,000 that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced as the total early Friday morning.

The added dough enabled the organizers to rent a 20-foot video screen for the rally at the north steps of the state Capitol — for $13,475, delivered from a firm in Philadelphia.

Seems like a lot in an age when large-screen TV’s are dropping in price.  But I was at the event with friends, and one said, “This has a big-time feel.”

And that’s the economic point. Forget the money the 200,000 visitors to the Capital City did or did not spend. That’s small stuff. What makes an economy move is an improvement in how people feel about a region.

This event, one of the few mass-happenings that was truly racially integrated, accomplished that, though it can’t be measured. And it was problem-free except for one guy who fell out of a tree in front of the Hartford Public Library.

Aside from the obvious double championship, part of what made up the “feel” of the parade was a larger event, with 51 marching and rolling units, up from 33 last year, and a shorter route than in the past.

Metro Hartford is an $80 billion-a-year ecosystem of commerce. We don’t have a lot of growth but we do have a lot of wealth.  As we’ve learned, it’s not easy to convert that wealth into energy and positive feelings by the wide population.

In other words: Just as money doesn’t buy happiness, it doesn’t buy the sorts of good feelings that can lead to decisions by people and companies to spend in a region. That takes things like quickly organized parades that have a “big-time feel.”

Here’s the list of corporate sponsors who donated cash. It doesn’t include “in-kind” sponsors such as the Peter Pan bus company.

  • Webster Bank
  • Mohegan Sun
  • Cigna
  • The Travelers Companies, Inc.
  • The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company
  • Northeast Utilities
  • United Technologies Corporation
  • AT&T
  • Virtus Investment Partners
  • The Connecticut Buick and GMC Dealers
  • Harvard Pilgrim Health Care
  • Coca-Cola
  • Bank of America
  • The Hartford Financial Services Group
  • Aetna
  • SNY
  • Capital Region Development Authority
  • XL Center
  • CBS Radio
  • Rogo Distributors
  • Peel Liqueur
  • Robinson & Cole
  • Foxwoods Resort Casino

UTC Machinists Voting Sunday On National Challenge By Local Candidate

by Categorized: Aerospace, Labor Date:

The historic, long-shot challenge by a Metro North mechanic trying to unseat the International Association of Machinists president comes to a vote at the union locals for Pratt & Whitney and UTC Aerospace on Sunday.

Jay Cronk, a mechanic at the New Haven rail yard and former Machinists union official, won the right to an election against IAM president Tom Buffenbarger at more than 800 local lodges around the United States and Canada. Cronk and his challenge slate won the endorsement of 42 locals, triggering a general election vote for president, believed to be a first in the union’s history.

Jay Cronk Rick Hartford/The Hartford Courant

Jay Cronk
Rick Hartford/The Hartford Courant

The campaign has been nasty, with accusations flying on web sites for both sides. And as voting unfolds at locals’ regular April meetings, both sides are claiming a strong hand.

“We’re crushing them,” said Rick Sloan, spokesman for the incumbent slate, including Buffenbarger.

Challenge slate spokesman John Courtmanche said it appeared to be a close race based on unofficial results filtering out. “Jay’s team is winning many lodges and many big lodges,” he said.

Voting is Sunday at the two lodges that represent about 2,500 Pratt workers at the East Hartford and Middletown plants; at the lodge that represents several hundred workers at United Technologies Aerospace Systems, formerly Hamilton Sundstrand, in Windsor Locks; at the Berlin lodge that represents Stanley Black & Decker; and at two Groton lodges.

Cronk’s local, representing Metro North, is scheduled to vote next week. Cronk returned to work there in December after a 22-year stint working for the union, mostly at the Maryland headquarters.

The Seattle area, where Boeing employees comprise about 10 percent of the roughly 325,000 active Machinist members, is a sharp battleground as a result of discontent stemming from a recent contract dispute.  Steve Wilhelm, a writer for the Puget Sound Business Journal, reported that he “criscrossed the parking lot” while voting was occurring on April 3, and found “every single person I asked, with no exceptions,” claiming to vote for Cronk and his slate.

Up for election are the president, the No. 2 position and eight general vice presidents who serve as the union’s board of directors, and hold full-time jobs at the headquarters.

Turnout could be a deciding factor. The endorsement votes, held nationwide Feb. 8, drew extraordinarily light numbers — just a small handful at the Connecticut lodges, sources said — because the union did not publicize that vote.

The U.S. Department of Labor is overseeing the election as a result of an agreement with the union after an accusation that the union did not properly handle a 2013 challenge.

For this month’s general election balloting, the local lodges have posted announcements of the national election on their web sites, and members are receiving some emails.

Cronk’s team said federal officials found that the Buffenbarger slate sent campaign materials to an email list meant for official union business. As a result, Labor Department officials emailed challenge slate materials to that same list, Courtmanche said.

A Labor Department spokesman had no comment and Sloan, the spokesman for Buffenbarger’s incumbent slate, also declined to comment about it.

 

Zygo Agrees To Be Acquired By AMETEK For $364M

by Categorized: Corporate finance, Technology, Wall Street Date:

Zygo Corp., the Middlefield maker of precision optics and optical measuring equipment, said Friday it agreed to be purchased by AMETEK Inc. in a cash deal worth $364 million.

The $19.25 per share deal represents a 31 percent premium over Zygo’s Thursday close of $14.68, and a 27 percent bump from the company’s 6-month average trading price.

If the deal goes through as planned with a targeted closing in June, it would mark the end of independence for a Connecticut homegrown technology stalwart that was founded in 1970 and showed growth but was rarely a home run for investors. Zygo had $162 million in sales in 2013, with net income of $11.4 million.

The deal was valued at $280 million by the companies in a joint written statement, a reduction from the total market value due to Zygo’s $90 million in cash and lack of debt.

AMETEK, based in Berwyn., Pa., is a $3.6 billion-a-year maker of electronic instruments and electro-mechanical devices. The company, traded on the New York Stock Exchange, is a component of the Standard & Poor’s 500.

The companies did not say how the acquisition would affect Zygo’s more than 600 employees, and whether Zygo CEO Gary K. Willis would remain as an employee. In recent years the company has employed nearly 300 people at its Middlefield head office and plant; an updated number was not immediately available Friday.

Willis, who was CEO in the ’90s,  returned to run the company last October after the board ousted a 3-year CEO amid a sales slump — but the deal with AMETEK is hardly a desperation measure, as Zygo sales recovered nicely and its balance sheet is very strong.

It’s so strong, in fact, that at least six law firms announced Friday that they were investigating the deal on behalf of stockholders, saying Zygo’s board might have fetched more in an open auction of the company. Such moves are not uncommon when strong companies that have not seen sharp run-ups in the markets agree to sell themselves.

A rejection by shareholders would seem unlikely considering that Michael A. Kaufman, the Zygo chairman, whose fund controls 24 percent of the company, has agreed to vote his shares for the deal. Willis owned 111,646 shares, or less than 1 percent, as of the end of 2013.

The deal would allow AMETEK to expand its line of contact-based measurement devices to include Zygo’s opitical, non-contact line, the AMETEK CEO said in the written release.

Willis said AMETEK “shares our focus on delivering exceptional metrology and high end optics solutions to our global customers.”

The deal is nearly twice as large as an offer Zygo rejected in 2010, from a different Pennsylvania company, for $10 a share. Since then, Zygo has made three acquisitions. It now has operations in Tucson, Arizona; two locations in Californiia; Montreal; and overseas in Shanghai, Taiwan and Germany.

Zygo shares opened near the offer price on the Nasdaq exchange and by late afternoon were trading as high as $19.65, closing at $19.43 — higher than the offer, as some investors believed a better deal could emerge.

AMETEK shares were up 1.25 percent on a sharply down day for Wall Street.

 

UConn Victory Parade: 4 p.m. Sunday In Downtown Hartford

by Categorized: Entertainment/Tourism Date:

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uconnparade

Connecticut will celebrate the dual UConn basketball victories with a parade Sunday at 4 p.m., with players and coaches riding through downtown Hartford in open, double-decker buses.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy Tweeted the time Wednesday morning after agreeing that the parade should and must be this weekend, not later. The marching follows the traditional route used in years past, starting at the state Capitol and ending there, with a rally at the north entrance facing Bushnell Park.

The Hartford Business Improvement District, coordinating the event, is working to raise $50,000, executive director Michael Zaleski said. By the end of the business day Wednesday, the group had lined up about 30 percent of the needed commitments.

“Failure is not an option,” Zaleski said, adding that he’s approaching old parade sponsors as well as some new ones from around the state. “We’ve gotten several companies that have stepped up to support the parade…We’ve always been able to reach our goal.”

The parade will coordinate with a show at The Bushnell — “Hell Hath No Fury Like a Woman Scorned” — which starts at 3 p.m. and will still be happening after the parade passes the theater on Capitol Avenue.

By holding the parade this weekend, the state, city of Hartford, UConn and Business Improvement District are following last year’s precedent — as Malloy said Wednesday, “strike while the iron is hot.”  Most cities have done just that, when a professional franchise has won a title.

Let’s Have A Parade — This Weekend, Not Later

by Categorized: Economic Development, Entertainment/Tourism Date:

We have a championship. We might have two. Now let’s have a parade, and let’s make it this weekend.

Not next week. Not Easter weekend. Not later in the month. This weekend, like a real city that makes things happen.

Sunday is the day the city would like to have marchers.  Maribel La Luz, spokeswoman for Mayor Pedro Segarra, Tweeted “Sunday” in the hours after the men’s team won Monday night. But the planning is still in the works.

Michael Zaleski, executive director of the Hartford Business Improvement District, which coordinates these events, would like to see it happen this weekend.

“We set the precedent last year that we can do a parade in less than a week,” he said.

Before that, going back to the ’90s, it was almost always the second week after the UConn men or women — or both, in 2004 — hoisted the hardware.

Zaleski is always eager to step off quickly but his group doesn’t call all the shots. UConn, the governor’s office and the city all weigh in, not to mention the little matters of raising money from sponsors, and working groups along the route that might have events scheduled.

This weekend, for example, it’s Palm Sunday, making that morning less than ideal and The Bushnell has a production Saturday and Sunday at 3 p.m. — “Hell Hath No Fury Like a Woman Scorned.”

And speaking of scorned women, ask Geno Auriemma before tonight’s game in Nashville whether he and his team can appear in a parade this weekend and see what happens. Bad idea.

The various offices in the planning will probably have a date set by Wednesday. “Rest assured,” said Andrew Doba, spokesman for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, “the planning has begun. Let’s go Huskies!”

It should be obvious that a parade needs to happen in the first few days, and that’s how the pros do it. Look at the last six national championships, in order going back:

  • Seattle Seahawks, Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 2, parade Wednesday, Feb. 5
  • Boston Red Sox, World Series Wednesday, Oct. 30, parade Saturday, Nov. 2

tribune blackhawks

  • Chicago Blackhawks, Stanley Cup Monday, June 24, parade Friday, June 28
  • Miami Heat, NBA Finals Thursday, June 20, parade Monday, June 24
  • UConn Huskies women’s basketball, Final Four Tuesday, April 9, parade Sunday April 14
  • Louisville men’s basketball Final Four Monday, April 8, NO PARADE — but the team marched in the annual Kentucky Derby Festival Pegasus Parade on May 2.

A parade is mostly just a celebration but there’s an economic side to it. In the long run, companies locate where people want to be, and people want to be where there’s excitement, and places with excitement hold parades quickly.

Do we want to be Louisville?  We already beat Kentucky. Enough said.