In Groton, Pfizer news is a bit more positive

As New London grapples with the eventual departure of its largest taxpayer, Groton officials are hailing Pfizer's plan to consolidate its facilities as good news, not only for their town but for the region at large.

Dennis Popp, mayor of the city of Groton, called Pfizer's decision to move its 1,400 New London employees to Groton "fantastic news."

"We could have been one of the (locations) that is closing, and that would have been devastating," Popp said.

On Monday, Pfizer said that while it is shutting down its operations in New London, it expects its local work force to remain about the same size.

"It's just good news that people are keeping their jobs," Popp said. "They may have a different ride to work every day, but they're still going to work. And that's good news for the region."

Monday's announcement came as a surprise to officials in Groton, who had heard little more than rumors about Pfizer's plans.

"We've been getting bits and pieces all morning," said town manager Mark Oefinger. "Obviously, we've had some discussion with Pfizer and we knew there was going to be an announcement at some point, but this is earlier than we thought it would be."

Pfizer has long been the lead economic engine in Groton, responsible for about 15 percent of the town's tax revenues. It paid $13.2 million in taxes for 2009 and almost $15 million in 2008, according to Groton's finance department.

The town's second-highest taxpayer, Electric Boat, pays about a third of that.

But officials acknowledge that Groton's benefit from the announced move will not generate much new tax revenue, a stark comparison to New London's plight.

"It doesn't mean a lot for Groton in taxes, but it does for New London for sure," said Harry Watson, mayor of the town of Groton.

An influx of new employees is seen as good news for local businesses, especially the Groton shops and restaurants closest to Pfizer most likely to benefit from new customers.

"From a local business perspective, this should be a very positive thing for the business right in the area," Oefinger said.

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