Marlin Firearms’ Former Building Sale To Bring Jobs To State

by Categorized: Manufacturing, Real Estate Date:

The building in North Haven that was vacated by Marlin Firearms in 2011 has been sold to a New Haven manufacturing company consolidating its operations — a move that will mean about 60 added jobs in the region.

C. Cowles & Co., a New Haven metal-stamping company with several affiliated businesses, bought the former Marlin property — 226,000 square feet on a 23-acre parcel, built in 1968 — for $1.7 million, according to Binswanger, the commercial real estate firm that brokered the sale.

Only in New England would we see a historic company exit a factory — Marlin was founded by a former Colt employee in 1870 — and be replaced by an even older company. Cowles started in 1838 as a maker of lanterns for horse-drawn carriages and has been in the Elm City ever since.

Cowles’ website lists six operating businesses including Cowles Stamping Inc., which produces parts for the automotive industry.  Five of the six are in New Haven but a sixth, Carlin Combustion Technology Inc., which makes burners and related components for  heating systems, is in East Longmeadow, Mass.

Carlin has about 60 employees and is also moving to the new location, people at C. Cowles said.  I couldn’t reach the president but two people said the move was happening this summer.

Marlin was acquired by Remington Arms in 2008. Remington, owned by the Freedom Group, which also owns Bushmaster and other firearms makers, said in 2010 it would consolidate operations and close the North Haven plant, which had 265 employees at the time.

Freedom Group’s owner, the prominent private equity firm Cerberus Capital, said after the Newtown tragedy that it would sell the firearms businesses; Cerberus’ founder and CEO, Stephen Feinberg, is the son of a Newtown resident. But Cerberus, reportedly seeking very high multiples of annual profits, has not yet done so.

Marlin had been bought out of bankruptcy in 1924 by Frank Kenna, whose family operated the business until the 2008 sale. The building is located on Kenna Drive.

ESPN’s New $175M Studio: ‘Unlike Anything On Sports TV’

by Categorized: Economic Development, Entertainment/Tourism Date:

BRISTOL — Once you get past Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and other politicians talking about jobs, and you’ve heard ESPN President John Skipper talk about how the network’s new Digital Center 2 brings amazing technology and people together, listen to Hannah Storm describe what the production palace will mean for viewers.

The longtime anchor and celebrity face of ESPN grows animated, striding out toward the main SportsCenter desk — where a huge video display built right into the floor shines light upward, toward a camera on a circular ceiling track.

Malloy and Skipper, center, cut a fiberoptic cable at ESPN's Digital Center 2. Cloe Poisson/The Hartford Courant

Malloy and Skipper, center, cut a fiberoptic cable at ESPN’s Digital Center 2.
Cloe Poisson/The Hartford Courant

Sure, it will be more fun and more efficient for ESPN’s personalities to broadcast from the $175 million building, with 6 million feet of fiberoptic cable, 25,000 square feet of studio space and a huge glass wall that looks out onto a glass “cube” with graphic artists sending images onto the screens.

But, I ask Storm, will the viewers see much of a change?

“It’s vastly different,” Storm said, “It will be a significant change, unlike anything on sports TV.”

Digital Center 2 opened Monday with a ceremonial fiberoptic cable cutting and a brief, live “sports report” from the anchor desk by Malloy and Skipper. “Welcome to SportsCenter from Olliewood,” Skipper announced from the set, repeating the play on UConn Coach Kevin Ollie’s name that ESPN used in the Final Four.

ESPN DC2 BustleIn a cut-rate bargain for Connecticut taxpayers, ESPN is expected to collect $10 million in tax credits. That’s instead of the $20-plus million package of grants, tax abatements and a large loan, much of it forgivable, that was announced on this spot nearly three years ago when Malloy made ESPN one of the state’s “First Five” companies with major development incentive money.

The employee level, more than 4,000, up from 3,872 three years ago, has risen less than some anticipated — in part due to a layoff of about 125 people locally last year. But that’s not why the terms changed. Lawyers on both sides simply came up with a different package from the one Malloy announced in 2011, several sources said.

The place goes live for real sometime in late June, producing ESPN’s flagship show a staggering 18 hours a day, with 42 anchors, and the NFL shows. Overseeing the operation is Rob King, the senior vice president for SportsCenter and News, formerly chief of the vast online network — and like Storm, he’s focused on what the building will look like in the 96 million homes that pay upwards of $6 a month for the ESPN.

Lobby of the new Digital center 2 at ESPN Dan Haar/The Hartford Courant

Lobby of the new Digital center 2 at ESPN
Dan Haar/The Hartford Courant

“We always felt that the smaller set kept us sitting behind the desk,” King said. “The point really is to give people more of a sense of who we are.”

Highlights of the studio include two giant vertical video screens, dynamic backdrops for studio anchors, reporters and guests.  Those are two of several stations where on-air talent can move around. But, King said, the idea isn’t more complexity, it’s more boldness.

“We want to make sure that we’re not letting the screen dissolve into a lot of little type,” King said. “What happens on these screens is complementary to what the anchors are doing.”

It’s twice as big as the old Digital Center building, which will remain in use for several shows. And the look ties together with the ESPN app and web site.

“I’m told it’s future-proofed,” Skipper crows, as the building has room for technology not yet invented.

A control room inside Digital Center 2. Dan Haar/The Hartford Courant

A control room inside Digital Center 2.
Dan Haar/The Hartford Courant

What about ESPN’s business? It’s a $12 billion-a-year juggernaut that grew massively with cable TV contracts and mass viewership built around ESPN’s multi-faceted role as chronicler, original content producer and live sports programmer. I asked Skipper, can that keep growing as profitably as it has?

“It’s certainly more difficult to future-proof a business than a building,” Skipper said. But he added, “We are confident in our ability to grow.”

The challenges are tough. We saw on Friday how World Wrestling Entertainment, another Connecticut sports operation, could suffer on Wall Street with a 43 percent, one-day collapse after investors perceived a new contract and online strategy to be less than ideal. And with Comcast, which already owns Stamford-based NBC Sports, hoping to add to its nationwide cable franchise with the acquisition of Time Warner Cable, ESPN’s bargaining position might not remain as strong as it’s been.

A camera with John Skipper's introduction on the scroll; at right is a huge vertical video backdrop. Dan Haar/The Hartford Courant

A camera with John Skipper’s introduction on the scroll; at right is a huge vertical video backdrop.
Dan Haar/The Hartford Courant

Skipper’s confidence derives from the network’s long-term cable TV contracts, its broadcasting rights for the NFL and other leagues, its remarkable cross-platform coordination and what he called a great “head start” as the dominant sports media outlet.

Malloy, for his part, holds a more short-term and less dominant position as he seeks re-election against Republicans who blast his economic development strategy as jobs-for-money.

ESPN, NBC Sports, WWE, Cigna, United Technologies and many other big employers have expanded in Connecticut after inking multi-million-dollar deals, taking advantage of the state’s lucrative film and digital production tax credits, or both.

The overall jobs picture is improving and is certainly stronger than when Malloy took office at the start of 2011, but the progress remains mixed, with unemployment dropping below 7 percent while job-creation stays slow.

Malloy, claiming ESPN as an outright victory as he spoke with reporters inside the new studio, blamed much of the stagnant growth on Republicans, who held the governor’s seat from 1995 until 2011. “We became the seventh-oldest state in the nation. I didn’t do that, they did that,” Malloy said. “We’ve turned that around.”

Each deal is different but with ESPN adding studio space in Los Angeles and launching its SEC Network in Charlotte, its expansion here was not a given and the $10 million in tax credits is a rounding error compared with what the company brings.

Just after ESPN anchor Sara Walsh talked about how happy she’ll be to work in Digital Center 2 under a new contract, Malloy took the podium and said to Skipper, “If my contract doesn’t get renewed, maybe I can swing a job here.”

Malloy To Mark Benefit Corporations Measure As reSET Celebrates

by Categorized: Economic Development, Government, Politics Date:

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy indicated he’ll commemorate the state’s new legislation that enables business owners to incorporate as “Type B” benefit corporations, set up for a broader social benefits beyond just profits for owners.

The event, not yet scheduled, won’t be a bill-signing ceremony since the measure was not a separate bill, but was instead included in the 300-plus-page budget implementation bill adopted at the tail end of the legislative session May 7.

Kate Emery, left, the founder of reSET, and celebrate at City Steam in downtown Hartford after the measure creating benefit corporations passed at the Capitol.  Dan Haar/The Hartford Courant

Kate Emery, left the founder of reSET, and Ojala Naeem, incubator and IT manager for reSET, celebrate at City Steam in downtown Hartford after the measure creating benefit corporations passed at the Capitol.
Dan Haar/The Hartford Courant

Members of the Social Enterprise Trust, a Hartford group known as reSET, gathered at City Steam in Hartford on May 9 to celebrate the measure passing.  The group had lobbied for the bill over the last three years at the Capitol, and had secured support from Malloy, who walked to the reSET office and incubator on Pratt Street in downtown Hartford early this year to back it.

The new rules won’t require any firm to do anything differently, but those businesses that establish themselves as benefit corporations, or social enterprises, will have to declare what their social benefit is, and report on it. And in Connecticut, unlike any other state that has a similar law, the registration is virtually impossible to revoke.

That provision could attract socially-minded start-ups to Connecticut, reSET founder Kate Emery and other advocates said.

WWE Shares Smacked Down After Warning On TV Rights Deal

by Categorized: Entertainment/Tourism, Wall Street Date:

The recently-high-flying WWE lost nearly half its value in pre-market trading before Friday’s opening bell, after the company announced a new deal with NBCUniversal, and said it would need 1.3 million to 1.4 million subscribers at its new online network to make up for lost pay-per-view revenues.

In trading on the New York Stock Exchange Friday, shares World Wrestling Entertainment barely budged — opening at $10.94 and closing at $11.27, down 43 percent from Thursday’s close of $19.93.

Vince McMahon with WWE's Triple H in Las Vegas in 2009. Getty Images

Vince McMahon with WWE’s Triple H in Las Vegas in 2009.
Getty Images

The new TV deal, including flagship shows on USA Network and Syfy, brings WWE cable revenue to about $200 million a year. “With the favorable renegotiation of our largest television agreements, WWE transitions to a subscription-based business model for future growth,” said George Barrios, WWE’s chief financial and strategy officer, in one of the two releases.

The problem is that in the transition, WWE is giving up pay-per-view and video-on-demand revenues. In a detailed outline of what it needs to do to make up for that, WWE said it could sign up between 2.5 million and 3.8 million subscribers to its online network, at $9.99 a month.  In addition to the United States, the online network is rolling out this year in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore,Hong Kong and the Scandinavian nations, WWE said.

But with a break-even point of about 1.3 million subscribers, and well under 1 million now, investors remain skeptical — and so we have a standoff between Vince McMahon, the founder and majority shareholder, and Wall Street.

The $200 million TV deal is larger than previous contracts but was less than Wall Street anticipated. In a video, Jeff Macke of Yahoo Finance suggested that WWE chief Vince McMahon had wanted a deal more in line with the 10-year, $8.2 billion NASCAR TV package reached last summer, on Fox Sports and NBC.

WWE shares closed at an all-time high of $31.39 on March 20, as the TV deal was being negotiated.  From that peak to Friday’s trading value, WWE has lost about $1.5 billion in market value, leaving it with a market value of less than $850 million.

That means Vince McMahon could lose his newfound status as a billionaire on the Forbes list. He owns about 55 percent of the company and his wife, former WWE CEO and U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon, owns a smaller share.

NASCAR Message In New Britain: ‘Our Fans Are Welcoming’

by Categorized: Entertainment/Tourism Date:

Steve Herbst grew up removed from NASCAR culture in Peekskill, N.Y.  His sister Susan is president of the University of Connecticut and his brother heads Colgate University.

At the dinner table in their house, Herbst told a New Britain business audience Thursday, “If you had not read the New York Times that day, you were in trouble.”

Steve and Susan Herbst at the New Britain Museum of American Art Dan Haar/the Hartford Courant

Today Herbst is a top NASCAR media executive and he doesn’t view his background, or anyone else’s, as inconsistent with the culture of the iconic auto racing promoter. In fact, the first of several marketing videos he showed featured President Barack Obama — not exactly a beacon of the  conservative, Southern NASCAR fan that comes to mind.

“There’s a place for everyone in NASCAR,” Herbst said, speaking at the Hinckley Allen law firm’s annual breakfast at the New Britain Museum of American Art. “Our fans are open, welcoming. More and more, NASCAR is looking like the rest of the country.”

The numbers tell a story of emerging diversity.  NASCAR’s TV broadcasts of 36 major series races, which Herbst manages, attracted an average of 5.8 million viewers per event in 2013, trailing only the NFL. That’s flat to slightly up from recent years and down from the peak pre-recession years, but we all know flat is the new up when it comes to mass media.

Hispanic viewership was up 35 percent, he said, still small at about 150,000 per event, but NASCAR also added a Spanish-language broadcast on Fox Deportes. Overall, 9 percent of self-identifying NASCAR fans are black and 9 percent are Hispanic, spokesman Scott Warfield said later Thursday.

Heck, there might even be some liberals in the mix.

NASCAR is also spreading from the South, with 24 percent of fans in the Midwest, 19 percent in the West and 15 percent in the Northeast, to go along with the 42 percent in the regional base.

Joey Logano, the driver from Middletown, has helped marketing in the Northeast, Herbst said. “There’s a lot of race fans here,” he said.

His sister, Susan, who was on hand Thursday, might remind him that we’re still mostly a college basketball state when it comes to rooting interests. “I felt the glow of two national championships as I came up I-84,” Steve Herbst said.

Herbst, the vice president of production and broadcasting, came to NASCAR’s New York City office in 2011 after years with the NBA and CBS Sports. He was the point man in negotiations for the 2015-2024 TV contracts with Fox Sports, which has aired NASCAR since 2001, and Stamford-based NBC Sports — deals that totaled $8.2 billion, according to many published reports. Exiting as race broadcasters after this year are ESPN and Turner Broadcasting, but Herbst said, “We’re going to continue to have a long relationship with ESPN.”

Herbst joked about a job in which “I watch cars go round and round” while his siblings run major universities.  He was always interested in sports management, Susan Herbst said, recalling him telling her about a course he took at the University of Massachusetts on “comparative stadia.”

In an era when the NFL draft captures the nation for the better part of three days, he’s in the right business, even as NASCAR, in his words, move through “a longer comeback than others off of the recession.”

It’s a comeback from a position of strength. When the Daytona 500 halted for six hours this year, “The ratings for the rain delay programming beat all the other shows out there,” he said.


‘High-Roller’ Bet Settled As UConn Champion Flag Flies In Kentucky

by Categorized: Entertainment/Tourism Date:
The UConn Husky championship flag flew this past weekend over Beech Bend Park in Bowling Green Kentucky, atop the "Kentucky Rumbler" wooden roller coaster. Photo courtesy of Quassy Amusement & Waterpark

The UConn Husky championship flag flew this past weekend over Beech Bend Park in Bowling Green Kentucky, atop the “Kentucky Rumbler” wooden roller coaster.
Photo courtesy of Beech Bend Amusement Park, via Quassy Amusement & Waterpark

Take a good look at the countryside where that UConn championship flag flew this past weekend. That’s not Connecticut, it’s southern Kentucky, high atop the “Kentucky Rumbler” wooden roller coaster at Beech Bend Park & Splash Lagoon in Bowling Green.

Beech Bend paid off its Final Four  “high-roller” bet with Quassy Amusement & Waterpark. As the UConn Huskies men’s team prepared to play in the national championship game against Kentucky, the family-owned parks, each with a Top-50 wooden roller coaster, wagered the right to fly its team’s flag at the other state’s amusement park — on opening weekend.

So Quassy, in Middlebury, shipped the UConn flag to Beech Bend in time for the bet, after UConn beat Kentucky 60-54 for the national title.

Now word on whether Quassy’s “Wooden Warrior” is also flying the UConn flag, but Quassy said in a release, “both parks are now focusing on the summer season and betting on something far more important for them: good weather.”

Hartford Marathon Has Title Sponsor; New Haven Open Close

by Categorized: Economic Development, Entertainment/Tourism Date:

NOTE: An earlier version of the post said the New Haven Open would announce a title sponsor Thursday.

Seven months after ING sponsored its last Hartford Marathon, the race has lined up another corporate title sponsor, to be revealed Wednesday.

20th Running of the Hartford MarathonAnd the New Haven Open tennis tournament, which was bought last year by the state, is nearing a decision on its own title sponsor with negotiations underway, sources said. The list was recently narrowed from three companies, which included two from the Hartford area, a source said.

The Hartford Marathon Foundation is set to announce the sponsor for October’s race at a press conference in downtown Hartford, and the identity of the company has been a closely guarded secret.

This much we know: The sponsor isn’t Cigna, which seemed to be an obvious choice.  The company moved its headquarters from Philadelphia to Bloomfield two years ago; its CEO, David Cordani, is himself a triathlon competitor; the company is in the health care industry; and Cigna already sponsors the Walt Disney World Marathon in Orlando.

The health insurer is one of the largest local companies that has never sponsored the race. ING had the title for six years but spun off its U.S. operations, creating a new company, Voya Financial. United Technologies Corp. had its name on the race for several years and before that, Aetna was the founding nameplate for the race.

Industry sources say the sponsorship costs in the low hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the company being named Wednesday will also be prepared to send hundreds of volunteers, as ING, UTC and Aetna did.

Beth Shluger, the Hartford Marathon Foundation chief, said of the secret title sponsor, “It’s a company that’s very concerned with every single person in Connecticut and in other places. …They are very community minded.”

Hmmm, so it could be a bank, and Northeast Utilities would make a lot of sense. We’ll just have to wait and see.

It was not automatic that the marathon would attract a banner sponsor. In Miami, where ING ended its run in February, 2013, this year’s race went off with no corporate branding.

Shluger said she’s been generally choosy over the years, turning away such names as Red Bull, which sells a product the marathon board does not want to endorse.

“The one thing we have here is, there are a lot of great companies in our area,” Shluger said. “It speaks well of our Connecticut economy, doesn’t it, that we’ve got two big events and both are in position to name title sponsors.”



Pfizer’s Sales Pitch On Research: No Mention Of Groton

by Categorized: Corporate finance, Health Care, Technology Date:

If the situation weren’t so pathetic, Connecticut’s Pfizer-watchers could laugh as the company tries to snooker British politicians this week into thinking the drug behemoth’s proposed, $106 billion takeover of AstraZenica makes sense.

The Brits ought to be smarter than U.S. officials who stood idly by as Pfizer destroyed value in its $218 billion worth of acquisitions since 2000, in three deals alone — Warner-Lambert, Pharmacia and Wyeth.

Groton, formerly the global R&D headquarters for Pfizer and home to 6,000 employees, is now mainly a large development office — not mentioned as CEO Ian Read touts the company’s top research locations.  Groton still represents a very significant presence for Pfizer, perhaps 3,000, but it’s one of numerous sites the company has shrunk or shuttered after big mergers, where building demolitions and fire sales of facilities rule the day.

“We have hubs of science in La Jolla, and in the Bay Area, and in Cambridge, Massachusetts,” Read says in a newly released video designed to sell the AstraZenica deal as, in his words, “a win-win for society, a win-win for shareholders, and a win-win for stakeholders.”

It’s a win-win for top managers and investment bankers. Period.

Click here and here to watch the videos of Ian Read and Mikael Dolsten, the global R&D president.  Watch Read dance around the issue of the operations in Sandwich, England, which Pfizer gutted.

Many people oppose the merger on the grounds that Pfizer, the world’s biggest drugmaker, is getting too big.  The company, echoing the madness at similar-sized Comcast, claims it needs all that heft to develop hugely expensive, high-risk drugs.  

But unlike Comcast, which actually has gotten too big, Pfizer has declined, when you consider its takeovers. In 2001, one year after acquiring Warner-Lambert for the bubble price of $93 billion, Pfizer had sales of $32 billion. Pharmacia had sales of $19 billion and Wyeth $14 billion, for a total of $65 billion — or $87 billion in today’s dollars.

Compare that $87 billion to Pfizer’s sales over the last 12 months: $51 billion, with a market value of $186 billion, less than it paid for the three companies.

Since the end of 2001, Pfizer’s shares have delivered a total return, including dividends, of 29 percent, compared with 110 percent for the S&P 500 index, and that’s with billions of dollars in stock buybacks. Remember, a stock buyback is just a way of shrinking a company, and for Pfizer that means it’s right where it was, only without its former competitors.

And yet, in the new videos, Read and Dolsten can hardly contain themselves, talking about all the good that will come of the AstraZenica deal — yet another match made in heaven, in their options-driven world.

“A combined company will have products and science that can address in an integrated manner what the patient needs and can take on disease management and offer much more value for patients and health care providers,” Dolsten gushed.

What he’s saying is that Pfizer could make itself into a global force for coordinating pharma development, not just another firm in the business. Basically, a utility, only private, for-profit — like the cable companies, speaking of Comcast.

Well, we already have three industries that are struggling mightily with disease management, thank you very much: The U.S. government through Centers for Disease Control and other agencies; the managed-care insurance industry; and the fractured health care industry itself, with a hospital system that’s under siege.

If we’re going to let the the drug industry turn itself into a public utility, we should regulate profits and executive pay. They’ve had it both ways long enough.

Happy Days Are Here…Almost, Economists Tell Business Audience

by Categorized: Economy Date:

CROMWELL — We keep hearing about a strong economic recovery. It’s out there somewhere, certainly in North Dakota, but not yet in Connecticut, at least not the kind of gains that can, say, easily get a governor re-elected.

But hang on, economists told business executives at a conference Friday. It’s coming later this year, and if not in 2014, definitely next year. The gains will come from a national surge. And they’ll last at least through 2016.

“Pessimism has become very popular and it’s taken its toll on the national psyche,” said Ryan Sweet, director and senior economist at Moody’s Analytics, told a crowd at the event organized by the Connecticut Business and Industry Association. “People are going to get caught off guard in the next few years about how strong our economy can grow.”

Go ahead, everyone agreed, catch us off-guard after nearly five post-recession years of waiting. The total output of the national economy, which was unexpectedly flat in the first three months of the year, will recover to reach 3 percent this year, 4 percent in 2015 and 3 percent in 2016, Sweet said, as the housing recovery gains strength.

Of course, as the vehicle miles per-gallon ads warn, results may vary. But in slow-growing Connecticut, rising interest rates — which can be expected to temper growth in order to quell any threat of inflation — could help, Sweet suggested, by boosting the fortunes of the financial services industry.

And the threat of rising interest rates will prod cash-rich companies, especially the blue chips, to spend some of that money and borrow more before rates shoot up. “There is a tremendous amount of pent-up demand in business investment,” Sweet said.

“The job market will be in much better shape, even in Connecticut,” he said, adding, “All signs point toward a noticeable improvement in the housing market. …and that’s going to do wonders for our economy”

Sweet’s upbeat view mirrors that of Connecticut economists at UConn and the New England Economic Partnership.

All of this assumes that consumer demand picks up. Many households are well positioned to spend more, as revolving credit card debt is nowhere near its old peaks. But stagnant wages must rise as part of the equation, and although it wasn’t a popular move for this crowd, the Connecticut minimum wage increase to $10.10 in 2017, driven by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy this year, will help push up overall pay for wage-earners.

Connecticut has special issues, including a weak housing recovery in some places, the lack of any clear engines of job creation and a predicted stock market downturn, which would typically hurt this state more than others.

“The next couple of years will be very good years for Main Street,” Sweet said, “whereas Wall Street is going to have tough years.”

As economist Jim Glassman sees it, considering the nation had $3 trillion worth of underwater mortgages, the slow recovery could have been much worse, like what we saw in Japan for decades.

“The pace of growth may be disappointing to you,” said Glassman, managing director and head economist for the JPMorgan Chase commercial banking unit, “but I think it’s miraculous that it’s happening at all.”

Many have blamed the mortgage-security industry for a host of recession-era abuses and ills, but because mortgages were packaged and resold as securities, investors were forced to immediately write down their values after the collapse, Glassman said. That led to a faster return to the normal order. “This is why the U.S. is powering out of recession,” he said.

New Haven Machinist Falls Short In National Challenge But Vows To Appeal

by Categorized: Aerospace, Labor Date:

Jay Cronk, the longtime Machinists union official from Connecticut who challenged the IAM’s international president in a historic national election, has lost the vote but said he isn’t done fighting.

A tally of preliminary results released Friday by the IAM shows that Thomas Buffenbarger, IAM president since 1997, outpolled Cronk by 23,545 to 11,163 in voting at about 800 Machinist local lodges around the country during April, including several in Connecticut.

machinist tallyTurnout was light among about 570,000 active and retired union members who were eligible to vote. And the Machinists who did vote made history, as it was believed to be the first-ever national election for president in the union’s 125-year history.

It was a bitter fight filled with accusations on both sides. Cronk, 59, now a Metro North mechanic in New Haven, said it’s not over. He and his challenge slate for the top IAM positions, posted accusations on the IAM Reform website, saying Buffenbarger’s team threatened local union officials to campaign for the incumbents and illegally used union money to campaign.

Cronk’s slate also charged that there are “significant anomalies in the voting results.”

Jay Cronk Rick Hartford/The Hartford Courant

Jay Cronk
Rick Hartford/The Hartford Courant

“We intend to ask the Department of Labor to investigate these serious violations, through every avenue available to us,” Cronk said in a written statement. “Unseating a corrupt and entrenched bureaucracy will require our continued strength and focus.”

Rick Sloan, a spokesman for the incumbent slate, declined to respond directly to the charges, but he said, “From day one, this was all about running up the bill and increasing the cost to the union and that’s what his plan is now and has been all along. …He lost big-time. He got less than 2 percent of the entire union.”

The U.S. Department of Labor oversaw the election, including the counting of ballots this week, under an agreement with the Machinists arising from the union’s alleged improper handling of a 2013 election.

Buffenbarger, who recently visited Connecticut for a Machinists union conference in Groton, said in a written release, “Our members have spoken and we thank them for their support. They overwhelmingly rejected an effort to move this union backwards and we now turn our full attention to moving the IAM forward.”

The unofficial tally shows that the 10 incumbent slate candidates for the 10 positions polled between 29,337 and 21,486 votes.  The seven challenge slate candidates polled between 12,751 and 10,690 votes.

A strong Machinists union benefits the economy as a whole including in Connecticut, where the IAM represents several thousand workers, about 2,500 at Pratt & Whitney in East Hartford and Middletown. So the opening of the process that generally shuns national elections is probably good as well.

Cronk, who was fired from his union headquarters job a few days after he announced his candidacy in November, returned to the Metro North job he left 22 years ago. Even if the loss in this election holds up, he’ll be remembered as the first Machinist union member to force a national election for president, by winning enough union locals in nominating contests.