Author Archives: Dan Haar

Cities Must ‘Get Their Act Together,’ Malloy Says

by Categorized: Economic Development, Politics, Public finance Date:

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, standing in front of a bank of Rentschler Field upper-level windows overlooking Hartford and East Hartford, recounted his achievements to a roomful of local and regional economic development officials Wednesday — but added a blunt twist.

Malloy at Rentschler Field Wednesday Dan Haar/the Hartford Courant April 23, 2014

Malloy at Rentschler Field Wednesday
Dan Haar/the Hartford Courant April 23, 2014

When someone asked the governor about struggling cities, he didn’t just cite all the money his administration has spent, and will spend.

“Cities have to get their act together,” said Malloy, who’s seeking re-election this year. “I did this for 14 years.”

Malloy had a somewhat easier time of it as Stamford’s mayor, since that city, alone among the Big 5 of Bridgeport, Stamford, Hartford, New Haven and Waterbury, has a vast, stable base of rich and upper-middle-class neighborhoods, not to mention Wall Street firms.

But as governor, even his critics must admit he’s had some success bringing a bit of efficiency to entrenched agencies.

“We have more than 1,000 fewer people working in state government than the day I came in,” Malloy told the gathering, organized by the state Department of Economic and Community Development. “But some of this has to be done at the local level.”

Was he suggesting staff cuts at cities and towns? No, at least not right away. Rather, he’s calling on them to find ways to be more efficient through technology and management — and therefore less dependent on the state and able to operate with fewer people.

Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra proposed a budget this week with deep cuts and perhaps layoffs. Without referring to that, Malloy said, “I can look you in the eye and say I am not responsible for a single layoff at a municipality,” as state aid to cities and towns has remained stable.

 

Ted’s Montana Grill Sets Opening Day At Hartford’s Front Street

by Categorized: Commerce, Entertainment/Tourism Date:

Maybe Front Street in downtown Hartford should change its name to Frontier Street on May 12. That’s the day Ted’s Montana Grill opens for business with its second location in Connecticut, the chain announced Tuesday.

Ted’s, founded in 2002 by CNN-founder Ted Turner and restaurateur George McKerrow, will occupy a 4,600-square-foot section of Front Street with a 160-seat restaurant, joining the Spotlight Theatres and Front Street Bistro and the Capitol Grille at the development.

Still under construction is Infinity Music Hall, which is set to open this summer, and Nix’s seafood restaurant.

It being Earth Day, Ted’s Montana Grill, with 44 locations now open in 16 states, didn’t miss the chance to tout its “many eco-friendly technologies and practices” at the restaurant with an old West saloon decor and a bison specialty, “from low-voltage, compact fluorescent light bulbs to menus printed on recycled paper.”

“Mark Twain would be very happy to see Ted’s Montana Grill opening up downtown. He’d definitely walk along the river and be a regular on one of our bar stools,” said John Halpin, who will head the staff of 54 at the Front Street location.

The other location for Ted’s in the state is at  The Promenade Shops at Evergreen Walk in South Windsor.

 

Bagging Earth Day With The Hartford Marathon

by Categorized: Commerce, Economic Development Date:

Among the gazillion Earth Day releases that crossed my inbox Tuesday, an offer from the Hartford Marathon Foundation stood out for its advance planning and sentiment.

HMF bagLast October, the marathon folks didn’t throw out all those plastic banners that lined the start and finish in and around Bushnell Park and the state Capitol — the end of the line for ING’s lead sponsorship.  On Tuesday, they rolled out a line of bags and wallets made of those very banners in blue, orange, black, white and other colors.

They know runners like to own race-related stuff — though in this case, it isn’t free with a registration. It’s sold at www.shophartfordmarathon.com,  prices ranging from $15 for an 8-inch “zippered caddy” to $38 for a 14-inch “messenger bag.”

No word on whether the bags were sewn by local runners.

Report: One-Third Of Businesses Affected By Storm Sandy Were Uninsured

by Categorized: Economy Date:

Among small businesses affected by storm Sandy in 2012 and polled by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, one-third had no insurance and half paid for damages out of personal funds.

The New York Fed polled the businesses in New Jersey, New York city, the Hudson Valley and coastal Connecticut late last year between Oct. 10 and Dec. 3, roughly a year after the storm.

Forty percent of firms reported being affected by the storm, mostly negatively, although 8 percent said they had net financial gains — including some in construction.  Among the one-third of respondents hurt by the storm, “22 percent had losses greater than $100,000,” the New York Fed said in a release Monday.

“The top sources of losses for firms included decreased customer demand (59 percent), utility or service disruption (43 percent), and damage to or loss of assets (29 percent),” the report said.

A breakdown of responses by state or county was not available Monday. New Jersey and New York city were hit much harder than Connecticut and the Hudson Valley.

Among the firms hurt by the storm, 43 percent cited a continued financing need of $25,000 to $100,000. a similar percentage of those helped by the storm cited the same financing need.

 

Investments In Connecticut Technology Firms Jump in 2014

by Categorized: Corporate finance, Technology Date:

Three very large investment deals in the first three months of 2014 led to Connecticut’s largest quarterly tally for venture capital deals in years, $189 million.

The total in the first quarter of 2014 was more than three times larger than any quarter of the previous two years, according to the MoneyTree Report from PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and the National Venture Capital Association.

Two of the three recent investment rounds went to New Haven-based drug development firms. Melinta Therapeutics, now in Phase 3 trials for a drug to treat gonorrhea and other infections with a single pill, received $70 million in February from a group led by Vatera Healthcare Partners, its major current equity owner.

Kolltan Pharmaceuticals, a cancer-drug developer also in New Haven, received $60 million last month from a variety of investors. Kolltan, with technology developed at Yale, is in Phase 1 trials for a revolutionary therapy.

Odyssey Logistics & Technology Corp., a shipping management firm based in Danbury, received $48 million from a group led by Goldman Sachs. 

Seven other deals for Connecticut firms totaled $12 million. Connecticut Innovations, the state’s quasi-public technology investment arm, participated or led in five of those.

The large quarter for tech investments does not necessarily mark a trend, as venture capital deals don’t follow a clear pattern from quarter to quarter. But the New York metro region, which includes Fairfield and New Haven counties, has had two straight quarters with deal levels not seen since 2001, the MoneyTree report showed.

And nationally, according to the report, which was compiled based on data from Thomson Reuters, the $9.5 billion invested in tech firms in the first quarter of 2014 was the highest since early 2001.

Many firms are moving into later stages of development and that explains the larger investments, said Bobby Franklin, President and CEO of the National Venture Capital association. But he said, “overall capital remains constrained for most venture capital firms.”

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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