Score one for Connecticut. CVS Health’s pending acquisition of Aetna just upended the insurer’s New York relocation plans. Of course, the bulk of Aetna’s some 4,000 workers in Hartford would have probably stayed put. But a Manhattan headquarters move would have been another economic and civic blow for a state that has suffered many of them.
Jim Smith hopes there could be more victories on the way. Connecticut’s economy depends on it. The newly retired Webster Bank chief executive is co-chairing an emergency task force of sorts, one charged with delivering badly needed recommendations to the Legislature by March 1 to improve the state’s economic competitiveness and fiscal stability.
The numbers aren’t pretty right now. Connecticut fell to 43rd on Beacon Hill Institute’s competitiveness ranking in 2016, down from eighth in 2001. The state’s economy has essentially remained flat since the Great Recession ended.
The new commission grew out of talks among concerned business leaders, Smith says, and underscores the need for the Nutmeg State’s various corporate constituencies to have a more united voice.
Smith hopes the commission report can provide that rallying cry. More specifically, Smith says he would like the group to figure out ways to tackle the recurring deficits that plague the state budget, a structural imbalance that has long destabilized state officials’ approaches to tax policy. And he wants to come up with ways to improve transportation spending -- to buttress the state’s road, train and airport infrastructure.
Alexion Pharmaceuticals will soon follow GE’s footsteps to Boston. Aetna is staying put, but Smith knows urgent action is needed to help prevent other companies from heading out of town.Jon Chesto can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @jonchesto.