July 02--It has to hurt when you empty the wallet trying to win the loyalty of the object of your affection, suffer the criticism of observers for your overreaching, and despite it all still get jilted.
That's how Gov. Dannel P. Malloy must be feeling today, though the blow is only to his ego, not his pocketbook. You see, the wallet he was preparing to open was yours, Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer.
One of the worst policy decisions of the Malloy administration ended last week when Bridgewater Associates, which operates the world's largest hedge fund, announced it would not be relocating its operations from Westport to a beautiful new campus on the Stamford waterfront. The company walks away from $115 million in state tax credits, forgivable loans and outright grants that the Malloy administration had dangled in front of Bridgewater Associates to get them to move. In return, it promised to build a $750-million headquarters and create an additional 1,000 jobs.
Bridgewater was part of the administration's "First Five" program, which offered corporations massive state aid in return for them staying in or moving to Connecticut to fuel job creation. Used adroitly, the program makes some sense. The deal to move Bridgewater never did.
First off, it was outrageous for the administration to fork over state dollars taken from taxpayers far less well-to-do than Bridgewater Associates and its owner. With a net worth of $12.5 billion -- about 63 percent of the state budget -- Ray Dalio, founder and co-chief investment officer of Bridgewater, is the richest person in Connecticut, 28th richest person in the United States and the 76th richest man in the world, according to Forbes.
Suffice it to say his company can well afford to build a new headquarters without state help.
Additionally, the plan would not have brought the company to Connecticut, but moved it from one community, Westbrook, to another Stamford, where Gov. Malloy's previous job happened to be mayor.
While the administration argued the proposed deal was meant to assure Bridgewater and its jobs and tax revenues stayed in Connecticut, it always seemed doubtful the successful company would move far and disrupt the lives of its 1,400 employees. Indeed, there are reports Bridgewater is planning to expand in Westbrook.
If that were not enough, the planned location on a 14-acre peninsula jutting into Stamford Harbor, displacing a boatyard, ignored the dictates of the state's Coastal Management Act. The act is explicit in stating that such waterfront land must be reserved for water-related uses. Managing hedge funds doesn't fit the bill.
It appears the environmental and land-use debate was the motivation that led Bridgewater to pull out.
The sad reality is that most states aggressively practice corporate welfare to woo major job creators and Connecticut has seen big hedge fund corporations move before. In that regard, the Malloy administration had some rationale for this proposal. However, on so many levels, the Bridgewater proposal went too far. Taxpayers should be thankful Mr. Dalio ditched the governor.
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