Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and his administration should abandon plans to provide up to $7.75 million in state assistance to TicketNetwork Inc., an Internet-based business that resells sports and events tickets.
An investigative story by Day reporter JC Reindl ("'First Five' firm TicketNetwork skirts rules, pushes ethical boundaries," published Oct. 30), raises serious questions about the nature of the South Windsor-based company's business operations and the quality of jobs it promises to create.
Yes, Connecticut is open for business, as Gov. Malloy likes to say, but we would like to believe that when state dollars are involved it is to attract high-caliber corporations with well-paying jobs. The Day's recent report suggests that TicketNetwork and a related ticket brokerage company called Metro Entertainment operate more on the fringes, conducting business in a suspicious fashion, and pushing ethical boundaries in the secondhand ticket business.
It is a trade that the state's Department of Consumer Protection is currently probing. While state officials would not elaborate, they did confirm an "ongoing inquiry" into the secondhand ticket business.
Whatever the outcome of the probe, this is simply not the kind of business worth investing state dollars in. It does not produce anything. We suspect most of its jobs will not pay all that well. In this case the state's largesse smacks of desperation.
Fortunately it's not too late for the state to reconsider.
Ronald F. Angelo Jr., deputy commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development, which administers the "First Five" program, said the TicketNetwork deal is still in the contract stages and no monies have been handed over yet. But Mr. Angelo and Gov. Malloy are still solidly behind TicketNetwork.
"Gov. Malloy is confident that this is a good investment for the state of Connecticut, its economy and its workforce," a spokeswoman said Wednesday.
We are unconvinced.
Despite Mr. Angelo's assurances that a thorough vetting process was conducted, we're concerned about the firm's use of multiple addresses and off-site mailboxes, reportedly used to receive tickets for resale. Photographs of casually dressed TicketNetwork employees picking up that mail do not suggest high-level employment opportunities.
It appears the company may very well be obtaining large volumes of tickets for resale through individuals using fictitious identities. Adding to the uncertainty were TicketNetwork founder and President Don Vaccaro's elusive explanations that raised more questions than provided answers.
The governor's "First Five" program is a good idea. The administration designed it to attract large business and development projects by augmenting and combining the state's incentives and tax credits to the first five companies that pledged to create 200 new jobs within two years, or which promise to invest $25 million and create 200 jobs within five years. The first recipient was CIGNA; the third, ESPN; and the fourth, the NBC Sports Group.
On the surface, TicketNetwork pales.
In exchange for the state's support, the company has said it will retain 292 jobs and create a minimum of 200 new full-time jobs within two years, and possibly up to 600 over the next decade. What kind of jobs? Software engineers, customer service representatives, marketing personnel, and support staff for financial and other company functions, Mr. Angelo said.
"At this point we are not concerned at all," the deputy commissioner said of the state's investment in TicketNetwork.
Other people, including this newspaper, are. The state should withdraw its offer to TicketNetwork.