Monthly Archives: May 2013

A Southern Lawmaker Sweet-Talks Connecticut Yankee Gunmakers

by Categorized: Economic Development, Manufacturing Date:

Alan Clemmons knew he had to act when he saw pictures of Texas Gov. Rick Perry arm-in-arm with a Connecticut gun company owner just a few weeks ago.

Clemmons, a state representative in South Carolina whose district includes Myrtle Beach, is a friend of Perry’s and supported his presidential run last year.  But Texas and South Carolina are fierce rivals for the hand of the jilted firearms makers, so Clemmons booked a trip to Connecticut to make his case personally.

On Friday, Clemmons met with executives at five companies, including Mark Malkowski, the owner of Stag Arms in Nee Britain, who appeared in that photo with Perry at the NRA convention; and Josh Fiorini, president of PTR Industries in Bristol, who has already said his firm is exiting Connecticut, and visited Clemmons’ district recently.

Tony Terzi, My colleague from Fox CT, traveled with Clemmons and found a colorful guy with plenty to say about his state — and ours.

“The nation has heard from your gun manufacturers and we saw the opportunity, we know what we have in South Carolina,” Clemmons told Terzi. “We know it to be a great place to do business and we know how we feel about the Second Amendment.”

We have a tax-free week for clothing; they have a tax-free weekend for guns. Enough said about that.

“I’m here today to offer a lifeline,” Clemmons said. “Your gun manufacturing businesses are looking for an exit strategy from Connecticut.”

Not necessarily.  Among the four firms that make military-style rifles banned for sale in their home state, the officials at the Colt Companies, the largest, have not said they’re looking to move. O.F. Mossberg in New Haven may look to expand elsewhere but has only said it always looks at options. Malkowski has said, and reiterated to me Friday, that he remains undecided but is actively listening to offers; and PTR is leaving.

The bald, goateed, jocular Clemmons  is confident about his chances of prevailing. One company — presumably PTR, but he didn’t say — asked its employees to choose among three locations, he told Terzi. “myrtle Beach won hands-down,” he said.

For south Carolina, the offer is not just money. Taxes are lower, but, like Texas, it’s a “right to work” state, meaning union organizing is nearly impossible. And Clemmons said, “We can train your employees on your schedule and not at your cost.”

Boeing and BMW are among the global manufacturers that have relocated to the Palmetto State in recent years.

Clemmons’ section of the state is not Shangri-la. It has high unemployment in the counties around Myrtle Beach, he said, because they were hard hit by the recession and abandoned by the old textile industry.

Aside from meeting with gunmakers and suppliers, Clemmons added, “I feel like I’m here for another reason and that is to extend South Carolina’s condolences for the tragedy that happened in Newtown.”

He added that Connecticut foisted more tragedy with the gun control law adopted by lawmakers and signed on April 4 by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

“I’ve always respected Connecticut, the Constitution State,” Clemmons said.

Malloy Spokesman Andrew Doba was unapologetic, restating a comment to Terzi that he has made often since the law took effect, banning the sale of military-style rifles and magazines that carry more than 10 rounds.

“The Governor thinks about job creation 24 hours a day. However, on this particular issue, we’ve made a decision that public safety needs to be our top priority.”

 

 

NLRB Filing in HealthBridge Case Pits Federal Courts Against Each Other

by Categorized: Health Care, Labor Date:

The long battle between HealthBridge Management and the Service employees International Union continued Thursday with a twist that seeks to pit one federal court against another.

Nearly three months after 600 HealthBridge Management workers ended a strike and returned to work at five Connecticut nursing homes, the National Labor Relations Board’s Hartford office asked a federal judge to rule the company in contempt for failing to restore the workers’ pay and benefits levels.

The filing by the federal agency’s Hartford office, siding with the New England Health Care Employees Union, District 1199 of SEIU, sets up a possible clash of courts. In December, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Chatigny in Hartford ruled in a temporary injunction that HealthBridge must take back the workers and roll back cuts ordered last June, which led to the strike in July.

HealthBridge was rejected in its efforts to reverse that ruling but later filed for bankruptcy at the five affected nursing homes, in Danbury, Stamford, Newington, milford and Westport. A New Jersey bankruptcy judge agreed that the restored pay and benefits would be onerous, and allowed modifications of the contract similar to the June cutbacks.

Thursday’s filing asks Chatigny to rule that the rollbacks violate his original order, despite the bankruptcy ruling – even as HealthBridge’s appeal of Chatigny’s order continues in the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York. In essence, the filing asks Chatigny to rule that the bankruptcy court acted incorrectly, and that HealthBridge’s bankruptcy filing was a ploy.

The union members, meanwhile, continue to work under the rolled back pay and benefits — an issue they say is an unfair labor practice, which the NLRB is considering through its own administrative court.

It’s likely that all of this will end up taking years and millions of dollars to settle, but both sides say a principle is at stake.

 

As Lawmakers Debate Energy Auction, Customers Lose Out On Savings

by Categorized: Energy, Public finance, Utilities Date:

Regardless of whether state lawmakers decide to auction Connecticut Light & Power and United Illuminating retail electricity accounts to private marketing companies as a way of raising cash for the state, the issue will cost money for 665,000 customers.

On July 1, electric customers who buy generation through the “standard service” plan at CL&P — 665,000 households and small businesses, upwards of half the total in Connecticut — were likely to receive a reduction in their generation rates of 5 percent to 8 percent.  That would mean about $2.80 a month for the average customer, or $35 for the next 12 months.

Now that price cut isn’t going to happen. The power companies, which buy electricity under state supervision, were unable to lock in lower rates because they were unable to guarantee energy traders that they would still have all those customers in the second half of this year.

The result: Generation rates will remain where they are come July 1, rather than taking advantage of lower market prices. Ironically, it’s all because of the threat of an auction that would, its supporters say, bring the benefits of free-market competition to customers.

“Even with just the specter of this auction being there, we lost all of our buying power for 2013 and into 2014,” said Jeff Gaudiosi, the state’s power procurement manager, an employee of the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority who oversees CL&P and UI power purchases.

The auction itself might or might not be a good idea, but Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is pushing hard for it to happen because it would raise an estimated $80 million to $100 million, a one-shot boost for the state budget.

That’s not a good enough reason to do it. If the auction would bring lower rates to customers, let’s do it.  If not — and there are strong arguments on both sides — then it would be a potential disaster.

In fact, the state taking the proceeds of the auction is a cash grab, in effect a tax. That asset — the value of your retail business — rightly belongs to you as an electric ratepayer. Since the private marketing firms are willing to pay $100 or more per account, it makes sense that the ratepayers should see some of that money.

Put another way: If I get, say, $50 or $75 for allowing the state to auction my CL&P account to some company I never heard of, I might be a lot more willing to play ball. Then if Malloy and lawmakers must raise taxes or cut services somewhere else to make up for it, we’ll have an honest debate.

Here’s how the auction issue shapes up: In 2000, the retail market for electricity was moved from the power companies, under state price regulation, to private marketing firms. Dozens of those marketers are trying to sell power to customers at rates they say are better than the standard offer, and so far 47 percent of customers have gone that route.

Anyone who doesn’t switch remains with CL&P or UI, and pays a rate that’s overseen by the state based on a state-approved buying strategy. That’s what the standard offer is, and it now totals 7.615 cents per kilowatt hour at CL&P, down sharply in recent years.

Either way, you pay one monthly bill to CL&P and UI, and all customers pay the same distribution rate, which is also regulated, and is about twice as large as the generation rate.

The auction, part of Malloy’s proposed budget, would take segments of 100,000 customers and hand them to the highest bidders. There are 800,000 customers under the standard offer, including the 665,000 at CL&P and the rest at UI.

Under the proposal, modified in a new agreement to satisfy skeptical lawmakers, anyone who wanted could opt out of the auction and remain with the standard offer. Malloy had originally wanted all customer accounts sold.

Those marketers would not be allowed to charge a fee for customers switching, and they would have to offer a 5 percent reduction below the standard offer for the first 12 months.

But guess what — that 5 percent reduction was based on the present price of generation, and according to Gaudiosi, the state’s procurement manager, standard service customers were going to see at least that much anyway because of market conditions — and because of a new buying strategy that the state was going to put into effect this year.

Worse, the window for lower prices might be closing, Gaudiosi said.

“Right now they’re at a holding pattern,” he said. “That big drop that we saw over the last couple of years is kind of ending.”

We don’t know for sure what the actual savings would have been. It could have been less than 5 percent in the end. And of course, it’s not unheard of for proposed legislation to affect markets; think military-style rifles. But if the lost savings were, say, 8 percent, we’d be looking at $4.25 a month for the average customer, not $2.80.

Gaudiosi was hired under a restructuring law adopted by the General Assembly in 2011, which put oversight of electricity procurement for CL&P and UI under PURA, the regulatory agency.  For years, the power companies bought most of their electricity in three-year contracts, by law, and the new rules changed that — allowing Gaudiosi and the power companies to go out for 12-month contracts, saving money as cheap natural gas from shale brought prices down.

That new buying strategy was supposed to start in 2013.  UI enacted some of the strategy at the start of this year, and will see some savings. But CL&P did not, because of the looming auction issue and the timing of its contracts.

The loss of savings for customers will anger opponents of the auction. Their argument about the auction itself is that a smaller standard offer pool, with less buying power, will mean higher prices and will not set a low enough bar for the private marketers to meet — as the standard offer does now.  They also say the auction would let some companies take unfair advantage of people who are not equipped or inclined to follow developments and change their service.

Supporters say there are enough private marketers to compete fiercely. The entry of hundreds of thousands more customers into a system with strong consumer protections would make the market all the more robust and would drive down prices further, they say.

It’s hard to say who’s right on that issue. We’ve seen deregulated markets work well for customers (airline prices) and poorly (telecom and cable rates).  But already, electric customers are in the hole.

John Erlingheuser, the chief lobbyist for AARP, is among the staunchest opponents.  He heard about the lost savings earlier this month, and recalled the early days after Connecticut’s retail generation market was deregulated and rates shot up.

“I thought, here we go again, crazy energy policy is affecting rates.”

Groton Sub Base Sends Notices to 750 For Furloughs Starting July 8

by Categorized: Defense, Economic Development, Economy, Public finance Date:

At the submarine base in Groton this week, 750 civilian employees are receiving furlough notices that they’ll be off one day without pay each week for 11 weeks starting July 8, through the end of the federal fiscal year.

Click here for historic pictures of the submarine base

The furloughs are forced by sequestration, the mandatory, across-the-board spending cutbacks in federal spending.  Capt. Marc W. Denno, commanding officer of the base until the end of this week, said safety and essential services would not be affected — but morale is a different story.

The base has about 1,300 civilian employees, Denno said in a written statement, and the 750 targeted for furloughs work in a wide variety of areas.

“Certainly the loss of work-hours from these dedicated and integral members of the team will impact base efficiency and support effectiveness,” Denno said in the release. In addition to sparing safety and security, he added, “Family Services such as Child Development Centers will not be affected.”

The furlough is believed to be the largest to his Connecticut since the White House and Congress had a budget meltdown at the end of 2012 that led to the mandatory cuts. The sub base furlough — which amounts to the equivalent of about 35 jobs in total number of hours — is larger than the cuts that would have led to the closing of six airport control towers; those closures were averted.

The base “has taken great effort to try to limit the visible impacts that patrons of facilities, or tenant customers of base services, may see,” Denno said.

Some services have already been curtailed, including hours of the base gym, pool and library, and the commissary might close an additional day, Denno said.

“Of course, all of this impacts morale and productivity, and keeping Navy Team New London focused and moving forward is going to be my challenge through the end of this month and Capt. Carl Lahti’s challenge as my relief, after.”

In the big picture of the base’s operations, the furloughs are very small. The main issue is that the sequester represents what nearly everyone agrees is a ham-handed way to control costs.

The base, home to 15 nuclear subs, has an estimated economic value to the state of $4.5 billion, including all direct spending, indirect spending and spillover effects as the money courses through the state’s economy. That figure might be a bit of an exaggeration and it might be on target, but either way, it’s far more valuable to the economy than, say, retail spending because virtually all of the money is coming from out of the state.

More broadly, the possibility of a Base Realignment and Closure Commission, or BRAC, represents a threat to the base — which was on an initial list of targeted bases in 1993 and again in 2005, but was saved both times.  President Obama has requested a BRAC for 2015 but that’s not likely to happen based on the chilly reception in Congress, said Bob Ross, executive director of the state Office of Military Affairs.

The House Appropriations Committee not only nixed the idea in its version of the budget, it prohibited the Pentagon from preparing for a BRAC, Ross said.

Connecticut is a lot better prepared this time around in case of a base-closing commission, as the Pentagon has spent $150 million upgrading Groton and the state has spent another $11 million.

“The nation has to do BRAC, there’s no doubt about it,” Ross said Wednesday, but not during sequestration and other defense cutbacks, and not before the Pentagon studies the effects and the lack of savings from the 2005 round.

As for the sequester, Ross said, “It’s going to pop up in places where you don’t expect it.”

 

Commercial Printers Look Back, and Forward, As Another Firm Closes

by Categorized: Commerce, Media Date:

Lebon Press, a Hartford commercial printer since 1924, is closing, another casualty of the decline of the printing industry in a tough economy.

Lebon’s third-generation owner, Andy Lerner, delivered the news late last week the Homestead Avenue company’s roughly 20 employees, according to people familiar with the company.  “I regret to inform you that as of Friday the 24th of May, Lebon Press was closed,” employee Joe Waggoner said on his outgoing voice mail.

There were still some employees there Tuesday. I couldn’t reach Lerner, but the news is part of a sad pattern marking the decline — but not the death — of commercial printing in greater Hartford.  Midsize companies such as Sweet Waverly of Portland, which also had Hartford roots and closed in 2005, are squeezed between large firms that control the Fortune 1000 corporate work, and tiny shops that don’t have much overhead.

One of the Lerners talked with Hartford competitor Pyne-Davidson Commercial Printers about a possible merger that might have saved some jobs, said Dan Davidson, president of Pyne-Davidson on Weston Street. “But we were not interested,” Davidson said.

“It’s a tough go like most things in this economy but we think we’ve been smart and done what needs to be done to stay in business,” Davidson said. “We haven’t overextended ourselves.”

Davidson, whose firm has 24 employees and started in 1930, reeled off the names of Hartford area printers that have closed shop or merged recently, including Finlay Printing, Wolf ColorPrint and Creative Graphic.

This is an industry struggling with all sorts of forces, from technology to reading habits. But Davidson is optimistic, remarkably.

“Marketers know,” he said, “that you’ve got to keep top of mind. And the way to keep top of mind is to have something  printed on your side table…It’s never going to die totally but the pie is shrinking.”

Lebon was founded by Sam Lebon 89 years ago “with little money and no credit,” but survived the Great Depression, according to a history on the company’s web site.

“All along, the relentless efforts of this entrepreneur paved the way for steady, conservative, and controlled growth through such lean times. With continuous investments in “modern technology” with linotype and other typesetting machinery, the focus concentrated on copy and layout services.”

Robert Lerner, his son-in-law, joined the company in 1958 and Andy Lerner joined in 1984. The history includes technology upgrades, the last one in 2004: “a 6-color 40-inch Heidelberg Speedmaster with Aqueous coating and perfecting features.”

“There was a lot of work around this area,” Davidson said, “and there were a lot of printers.”

 

Another Nonsense Business-Friendly Ranking, And Good News For Grads

by Categorized: Economy, Jobs, Public finance Date:

Two more state-ranking lists are out and the picture is interesting.

Two Connecticut metros, Hartford and Bridgeport-Stamford, are in the Top Ten small cities for college graduates to start their careers, according to CreditDonkey, the financial education site aimed at millennials.

That contrasts with the sixth annual “Rich States, Poor States” report by the ultra-conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, ranking states by economic competitiveness. Connecticut is near the bottom, of course. We’re No. 46, largely because of lack of growth, the exodus of 102,670 people between 2002 and 2011, tax policy and costs, especially debt.

Let’s take a look at the winners and losers in this report, written by right-wing all-stars Arthur Laffer (the Reagan economist), Stephen Moore of The Wall Street Journal and Jonathan Williams of ALEC.

Utah, the perennial leader, is No. 1 again.  The top states read like a Republican utopia of hardscrabble nothingness — North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. Idaho, Georgia, Mississippi and Florida are also part of the Top Ten. Thanks to the Yankee Institute for Public Policy, for its look at the report.

After years on top of ALEC’s business-friendly rankings, Utah must be climbing fast in median household income, the single most important measure of broad prosperity, right?

Between 2003 and 2011, according to Census data, Utah’s median grew by 12.6 percent to $55,493.  The U.S. median jumped by 15.5 percent to $50,054.

And woeful Connecticut? Median household income rose by 19 percent in those years, to $65,415 — No. 3 behind Maryland and New Hampshire. This isn’t an average, which skyrockets in Connecticut because of all the hedge-fund billionaires. It’s a median, the measure of a typical family’s income.

What we have here is a group of ideologues bent on proving that backward states with poor services, lousy schools and a hellish quality of life for working families are magnets for business.  There’s absolutely no science behind it. It’s a religion based on the twisted idea that low wages and low taxes are some kind of magic formula for success.

Certainly Connecticut wastes a lot of money, as the Yankee Institute and others — including us at The Courant — point out. And Connecticut has serious, deep-rooted fiscal troubles that make the business climate less than ideal. Job growth remains low and that hurts people looking for new opportunities.  But we’re doing something right or median income would fall.

These dozens of “business-friendly” lists that keep popping up are getting way too little scrutiny.

The CreditDonkey list is a look at three factors: median income, the average premium paid to college graduates and the cost of living. Bridgeport-Stamford is No. 2 despite high costs, because college grads in Fairfield County make twice as much as non-grads. And Hartford is No. 9, with a 73 percent college degree premium.  Oxnard-Thousand Oaks, Cal. is No. 1 and Worcester comes in at No. 7.

As always, Connecticut fares well when it comes to pay and quality of life measures. By also looking at costs, CreditDonkey is offering a slightly nuanced view of the world.

 

ESPN Layoffs Exceed 100, Sources Say; Company Vows Continued Growth

by Categorized: Media Date:

ESPN is laying off employees in a cost-saving move that will affect more than 100 people in Bristol and more elsewhere, according to multiple sources, although the company did not report the size of the cutback.

Layoffs mostly happened Tuesday but were expected to continue for some employees Wednesday, sources said.

“We are implementing changes across the company to enhance our continued growth while smartly managing costs. While difficult, we are confident that it will make us more competitive, innovative and productive,” the sports television giant said in a written statement released Tuesday.

That line about continued growth might seem like pure corporate speak and in some ways it is. But ESPN, with more than 4,000 people in Bristol, continues to recruit and fill many open jobs through its active hiring web site.  That’s the nature of this type of cutback, and the hope is that some of the people laid off will land different jobs the company is filling.

Sources said the layoffs in Bristol alone would total more than 100.  Worldwide, including targeted cuts by attrition as well as layoffs, the number of job reductions would be in the low hundreds according to sources and news reports. The net effect of 2013 hiring and job eliminations by attrition was not known.

A small office in Denver was closed as part of the cuts, sources said.

ESPN has grown consistently, reaching more than 7,000 employees worldwide, spokesman Mike Soltys said Tuesday — including part-time as well as full-time employees.  The  Bristol headcount is up from earlier this year, when the network said it had just under 4,000, and would take a break from adding new buildings after the current round of expansion was done.

Tuesday’s layoffs will not push ESPN out of  Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s First Five program, under which the network received a low-interest, partly forgivable loan of $17.5 million and as much as $8 million in grants and tax breaks in exchange for investing at least $25 million and adding at least 200 jobs in the five years starting August, 2011.

The layoffs are in areas and job descriptions “across the board,” Soltys said, adding that the reduction will include positions eliminated by attrition.

An employee at the sprawling Bristol campus said Tuesday there was no specific target of the cuts, and that the company was saying little to its staff.  “It’s been kind of a general head-picking,” the employee said. “The number appears to be relatively small but the problem is, you don’t know where it’s going to hit…it’s been dotted throughout the day.”

ESPN is a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Co., which has also been eliminating jobs at its far-flung operations. Deadline Hollywood, an entertainment news site, said Tuesday that Disney eliminated 150 jobs at its film studio over the last several weeks.

Soltys and Andrew Doba, spokesman for Malloy, both emphasized that the layoff is not a threat to ESPN’s role as the dominant player in Connecticut’s burgeoning sports media industry.

“ESPN has been and will continue to be a key employer and economic driver for Connecticut.  They remain well on their way to meeting their hiring goals as part of the First Five program,” Doba said.

Soltys declined to say how many full-time jobs the company had added since the deal was signed. But  even during its expansions, ESPN has had significant layoffs in the past — one in 2001 and another in 2009.

The latest expansion includes ESPN’s largest and most expensive building, its Digital Center 2, which is on schedule to open next spring.

In all, the network has received more than $100 million in Connecticut state tax breaks in the last dozen years.  Even before the First Five deal, ESPN carved out a permanent, $15 million-a-year tax break with the state under an expansion agreement reached in 2000.  In addition, the network had received $50.3 million for digital infrastructure development through the state’s film and digital tax credit program as of last fall.

All those deals makes sense by the numbers as long as ESPN spends hundreds of millions of dollars every year in Connecticut. But the state’s grants, loans and tax breaks don’t exactly challenge the Bristol juggernaut to keep up its historic pace of job creation. That has helped fuel the debate about the public assistance — whether it’s needed to prod ESPN and other companies to hire.

Next year, for example, ESPN will add a Southeast Conference network with production facilities in Charlotte, N.C. — a state with a very aggressive corporate payola strategy. That project is likely to mean some added jobs in Bristol.  How many? In this job environment, the state can’t afford to risk spurning its high-profile employers.

Got more information about Tuesday’s layoffs? Please let me know at dhaar@courant.com.

For Nappier And Other Activists, Only A Moral Victory in Dimon Vote at JPMorgan Chase

by Categorized: Banking, Corporate finance, Management, Public finance Date:

Shareholder activists including state Treasurer Denise L. Nappier, who tried to force JPMorgan Chase Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon to give up his chairman post, will have to be satisfied with a moral victory. Their bid fell short Tuesday at the company’s annual meeting.

Nappier, fiduciary of the $26 billion pension and trust funds, was among the ringleaders of the effort. Despite support from unions and other pension funds, the nonbinding vote to create an independent, non-employee chairman, was defeated with one-third of shares voting favoring the split.

The Connecticut funds hold 1.5 million JPMorgan shares, valued at $74.5 million as of April 30, and $38 million in JPMorgan debt, Nappier’s office said.

Management and the JPMorgan board, and of course, Dimon himself, had worked hard to defeat the measure, so the one-third rebuke is something of an accomplishment.  Still, a similar bid got 40 percent of shares a year ago, and some had hoped that the scandal of 2012, in which a London trader lost $6 billion, would lead to a larger vote for a split.

Nappier’s statement, in part:

“The Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds and many other shareholders realize that highly integrated companies such as JPMorgan Chase, in order to ensure long-term value, should be managed by a CEO overseeing the business, and an independent chairman leading the board in its oversight and evaluation of the CEO’s performance. Independent Board leadership is an important governance variable to ensure that the company looks beyond today’s profits to future growth and success.”

Nappier sent Suzanne Hopgood, a corporate governance expert, former chair and CEO of a New York Stock Exchange company, and chairwoman of the Capital Region Development Authority, to represent her office at the JPMorgan shareholder meeting in Tampa, Fla.

Questions by shareholders about the board operations lasted more than an hour, said Hopgood, who conveyed Nappier’s respect for Dimon and his abilities, but also her concerns “that he has two positions.”

“They are two very difficult, challenging jobs,” Hopgood said.

Three directors on the risk committee were re-elected with votes of between 53 percent and 59 percent, Hopgood said, which are low totals reflecting the shareholders’ concerns.

Nappier is a veteran activist in corporate governance, especially this issue — the splitting of the roles of chairman and CEO. She led a successful campaign to persuade The Walt Disney Co. to split the roles in 2005, a move the company later reversed and Nappier is trying to restore, but her bid was turned back in March.

As with all of her activism, Nappier argues that her interest is in shareholder returns, not political points.  Tuesday, she cited a 2012 report by GMI Ratings that said 5-year returns were 28 percent higher at companies with a separate CEO and board chair than at companies with a consolidated office.

Nappier’s office, citing shareholder advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services, said 21.5 percent of Standard & Poor’s 500 firms had an independent chair in 2012, up from 18 percent two years earlier.

 

 

 

Report: Suburban Poverty Rises Sharply But CT Regions More Stable

by Categorized: Poverty Date:

Metro Hartford’s suburbs have among the lowest poverty rates among the largest 100 U.S. urban areas and the region is in the middle of the pack in growth of suburban poverty, a new report shows.

But the region, which includes Hartford, Middlesex and Tolland counties, had the second-fasted gain in suburban poverty of any metro in the northeast from 2000 to 2011, according to the report released Monday by the Brookings Institution. The release included a new book, “Confronting Suburban Poverty in America, and a web site designed to spur awareness and action, www.confrontingsuburbanpoverty.org.

Metro Hartford had a suburban poverty rate of 8.6 percent in 2011, compared with a national average of 12.1 percent. The top five were all small metro regions in Texas and California, which are poor areas in general.

Nationwide, 55 percent of all people living in poverty are in suburbs, not core cities. That’s up from 47 percent in 1970, and includes 16.4 million people.

Metro Hartford’s suburban poor, 90,198 people in 2011, account for 68 percent of the region’s total because, of course, the city of Hartford is small compared with the region.

The growth rate of poverty in the Hartford suburbs was 62 percent, ranking it No. 48 among 95 of the top 100 metros. (Data was not available for five small metros.)  Only Rochester, at 75 percent, was higher among northeast metros, and the national average was 64 percent.

New Haven was at 52 percent growth, with a suburban poverty rate of 10.3 percent, and Bridgeport-Stamford was among the lowest growth rates in the nation, at 39 percent, with the lowest of all suburban poverty rates in 2011, 5.5 percent.

Springfield had the second-lowest growth rate in the last decade, at 18 percent, but it still had one of the region’s highest rates, at 11.6 percent.

The issue of suburban poverty brings together a dizzying mass of ideas and social changes.  For example, we can’t tell from the numbers whether poverty is concentrated in the suburbs of a given metro, or spread out. New Britain, which is a city, is counted as a suburb in the Brookings report, skewing the data.

Where is the suburban poverty in Metro Hartford? The report doesn’t get that granular, but I looked at Census figures, which show that two-thirds of suburban poverty is in nine municipalities. New Britain is by far the largest with more than 14,000 people under the poverty line. The others, in order:

East Hartford

Middletown

Bristol

Manchester

West Hartford

Enfield

Mansfield

Vernon

The problem with poverty is being poor, of course, and the location doesn’t necessarily make it better or worse but the authors of the book and Washington, D.C.-based Brookings, make the case that services for the poor are focused in cities and are absent from some suburbs that are seeing a rise in poverty. So, while not as concentrated as the problems that led to the War on Poverty nearly a half-century ago, today’s poverty is in some ways harder to attack, and harder for the people living in it because they may be isolated.

 

“All the basic supports that helped us survive, that in many cases are legacy assets of urban societies, are blank,” said Luis Ubiñas, president of the Ford Foundation, which supports suburban poverty programs. “People are living no better off but without a safety net.”

Elizabeth Kneebone, co-author of the book, pointed out that there are programs that work in places like Seattle, Houston and Chicago, but they require regional cooperation. That’s not a strong suit in Connecticut.

The rise in the last decade is certainly not just a matter of hard times, the authors said. And it’s not just a matter of poverty spreading out from the cities to the suburbs. If that were true, urban poverty would be further down, and growth of suburban poverty would be worse than it is in the northeast — because cities such as Boston, Hartford, Providence and Springfield are smaller in area than typical cities across the country.

The fact that the rise of suburban poverty is multifaceted and complex is highlighted by the list of metro areas with the fastest rise in the last decade — a very diverse group with different reasons for the rise:

Metro Area 2000 (Suburban Poor) 2011 % Change
Atlanta         301,294          780,078 159%
Austin, TX           42,578          103,248 143%
Salt Lake City, UT           47,633          115,109 142%
Las Vegas           89,802          214,883 139%
Denver           68,611          163,434 138%
Phoenix         117,445          275,085 134%
Boise City, ID           27,191            62,459 130%
Provo, UT           17,403            39,784 129%
Minneapolis-St. Paul           89,895          204,901 128%
Detroit         211,377          453,784 115%

 

Homespun Advice from a Business Legend

by Categorized: Banking, Management Date:

Larry Bossidy was never the CEO of a Connecticut-based company, but he’s been a big force in business here and elsewhere for decades at General Electric, Allied Signal, Honeywell International and lately, as a board member at Berkshire Bank, which owns the former CBT franchise .

On Friday, Bossidy brought a combination of homespun advice and hardnosed pragmatism to an economic conference of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, at the Sheraton Hartford South in Rocky Hill.

Bossidy

Larry Bossidy at CBIA economic conference
Dan Haar/The Hartford Courant
May 17, 2013

 

The precepts he offered are basic but the execution of them is not so easy, and Bossidy has the track record to back it up.  Know yourself, be humble, reward doers, anticipate change, create systems that root out errors and, mostly, be flexible, not rigid.

“People who have their minds made up are the ones who end up falling by the wayside,” Bossidy said.

Bossidy started his career at General Electric in 1957, where he rose to be chief operating officer of GE Credit, now GE Capital, and vice chairman of the company, the right-hand man to chairman and CEO Jack Welch.  Bossidy later turned Allied Signal into a top-performing company and sold it to Honeywell, which he ran in two stints, before and after Honeywell was nearly acquired by United Technologies, then General Electric, in 2001.

“I always discouraged a lot of philosophers around my place,” said Bossidy, 78. “You want good ideas but you want to get things done.”

That’s the theme of one of the two books Bossidy co-authored after retiring from Honeywell in 2002, “Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done.”  He later co-wrote “Confronting Reality: Doing What Matters to Get Things Right.”

It’s the smart, tough, results-based management style that’s at the heart of GE culture. Bossidy was close to Harry Gray, who converted the old United Aircraft Co. into United Technologies, and who greatly admired Bossidy.  Like a lot of people, I assumed Gray had tried to recruit Bossidy in the tumultuous last years of Gray’s tenure at UTC in the mid-’80s.

Not true, Bossidy told me Friday. “We were friends, but  wouldn’t have gone to a GE competitor. I woudn’t have gone to UTC.”

He’s a Red Sox fan and UTC, he said, was “the Yankees.”  That was a different era, of course, and nowadays Red Sox and Yankees players jump ship for the Benjamins all the time.

“The quality and performance of U.S. companies is a lot better than it was ten years ago,” Bossidy said.

He sees more difficulty in the economy this year and no great boom in 2014 — in contrast to Ryan Sweet, an economist at Moody’s Analytics, who told the audience that U.S. GDP growth could reach 5 percent next year. But Bosssidy said he’s “an optimist for the country,” and that we’ll solve the problems of long-term liabilities and other major structural worries over the economy.  Yolanda Kodrzycki, a vice president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and director of the New England Public Policy Center, had said earlier that those concerns could hamper economic growth for years.

But Bossidy’s main message transcended business, to the realm of leadership and more broadly, humanity. It’s very hard to promote innovation and teamwork at the same time, and it’s important to remember there are no cookie-cutter solutions to tough problems.

Bossidy was in some ways very much in the mold of typical speakers at business conferences — an accomplished CEO, still with a hand in the game. But he was broader than most, something CBIA appreciated, said Peter Gioia, the association’s vice president and head of research.

For example: As the more gregarious brother of a pair of twins, Bossidy said he learned humility from his mother. She told him, “It’s not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.