A Massachusetts economic development board on Tuesday approved $13 million in state and local tax breaks for nine companies, including Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. and MathWorks Inc., that promised to create hundreds of jobs and upgrade their facilities.
The largest state tax break, worth $3.75 million, went to MassMutual, which pledged to move 250 insurance jobs from Connecticut to its Springfield headquarters and spend $59 million to renovate the buildings. The life insurance company is already one of the largest employers in Western Massachusetts with about 4,000 employees in the area.
MathWorks, which makes technical software, won $3 million in state tax credits in exchange for a promise to create 600 jobs, retain about 1,800 more,and invest $113 million in new facilities. Late last year, Boston Scientific Corp. disclosed plans to sell its headquarters in Natick, including three buildings and 35 acres of land, to MathWorks and relocate to Marlborough.
Including MassMutual and MathWorks, nine companies received tax breaks, promising to create more than 1,200 full-time jobs, retain more than 5,900 existing positions, and spend nearly $267 million on construction, equipment, and renovations to support their local operations. The aid includes $9.8 million in state tax credits and $3.2 million in local property tax breaks.
“Supporting companies that are choosing to grow in Massachusetts is an important part of our effort to create economic opportunity for everyone,” said Greg Bialecki, secretary of housing and economic development, in a statement.
Tax breaks for specific companies have long been controversial. Proponents argue the investments are needed to attract key employers and encourage existing ones to grow here instead of out of state, while critics say the government should steer clear of awarding subsidies to specific companies. They say there’s no proof the firms wouldn’t choose to expand in Massachusetts anyway without the aid.
Also on Tuesday, state Auditor Suzanne M. Bump testified on Beacon Hill that it is “impossible” for her office to audit business tax breaks to catch waste and fraud because it does not have access to tax returns. She proposed legislation that would give her access to tax return information to review commercial tax breaks and subsidies.
The state Economic Assistance Coordinating Council also approved:
■$2.4 million in tax credits to DRS Power Technology, a Fitchburg defense contractor that plans to spend $33 million and retain 80 jobs (provided it wins a Navy contract to develop hardware for the next generation of submarines).
■ $317,500 in state tax credits to New England Wire Products Inc., a Fitchburg wire rack maker that has promised to add 100 jobs and invest $3.6 million in nearby Leominster.
■ $283,820 for Jacqueline’s Wholesale Bakery Inc., which sells frozen cookies and plans to create 35 jobs as part of a $2.8 million expansion in Salem.
In addition, the state gave final approval to local tax breaks for several other companies that did not receive state aid.
That includes $828,000 over 13 years for Waltham life sciences company PerkinElmer Inc., which has promised to create 150 jobs and add 75,000 square feet to two buildings in Hopkinton, where it purchased Caliper Life Sciences Inc. in 2011.
And Crane & Co., the Dalton company best known for making the special paper used in US currency, won a five-year tax break worth $291,000 from the town of North Adams. Crane, which recently bought William Arthur Inc. in Kennebunk, Maine, plans to move the Maine operations to its existing stationery plant in North Adams, creating 74 jobs.
The largest local property tax break, worth $1.3 million over 10 years, went to Squire Charger Realty LLC, which has promised to redevelop a vacant property in Revere. A new Market Basket supermarket is expected to open on the 9-acre site this summer.Todd Wallack can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @twallack.