Hartford – Hubbard-Hall President and CEO Molly Kellogg challenged Gov. Ned Lamont face-to-face Wednesday to explain why the Waterbury-based chemical company should stay put.
Kellogg bluntly told Lamont that her family’s 170-year-old manufacturing business could consolidate in South Carolina where running a business is less costly and complicated than in Connecticut.
Later, she said she did not find the governor’s generic responses to her reassuring, but she also expressed a desire to remain in Connecticut where Hubbard-Hall has its roots.
Kellogg got to ask Lamont the second-to-last question when he addressed a business lobbying day that the Connecticut Business & Industry Association organizes every legislative session.
“We’ve got a million dollars to invest back in our business. I can invest it in Waterbury, or I can invest it in our plant in South Carolina,” she said. “Why should I invest back in Connecticut?”
For starters, Lamont lightheartedly observed Hubbard-Hall Inc. is already here in Connecticut, and he also praised the leadership of Waterbury Mayor Neil M. O’Leary and the quality of city schools.
“I don’t want to knock anybody else, but I’ll just stay positive on Connecticut. I think we have more of a devotion in terms of workforce. We are a better gateway to world markets. Certainly, a better gateway to the New England market. I don’t know where you sell to,” Lamont said.Advertisement
He said his administration is advocating transportation initiatives that would make it easier Hubbard-Hall to move its products, including upgrading commuter and freight rail service in the Naugatuck Valley region that Waterbury anchors.
Kellogg responded to those observations that the costs of taxes and conducting business are higher in Connecticut compared to South Carolina.
“We want to continue our legacy here, but it is hard to do,” she said.
Lamont acknowledged that Connecticut is a more expensive state, including permit costs for industrial developments.
He said one of challenges is that South Carolina has more open land available for development, while industrial properties in a smaller and more densely developed Connecticut frequently must be cleaned up before being repurposed.
“One of the things I found is every time we want to build something I’ve got spend $5 million to remediate it because it had some old plant there years ago,” Lamont said. “South Carolina, God bless them, they just move into a cornfield, and they don’t have those problems.
“So, they do have some advantages that we don’t have, but we have some advantages that they don’t have, and that is what I’ve got to try to emphasize, and then more broadly, look, I’m not going to tell you I’m going to be less expensive than Florida or South Carolina,” he continued.
Lamont stressed the current two-year budget plan approved last year largely avoided increases in tax rates.
“We’re trying to speed up regulation and make it more responsible,” he said. “So, I haven’t solved things, but I have tried to give people a sense of fiscal stability and consistency so you know what this state is probably going to look like and what your obligations will look like over the next five years.”
Kellogg said the governor’s responses to her question and observations were “a little vague.” She also reiterated that she wants to keep Hubbard-Hall in Connecticut if possible.
“The strategic reasons are there, but I need better economic reasons for it,” Kellogg said. “If I run the numbers, South Carolina financially makes more sense, but we’ve been a Connecticut business, we’ve been a Waterbury business since 1849, and I want to reinvest, but they’ve got to make it easier to do that.”