Published April 23. 2014 10:06AM Updated May 06. 2014 4:14PM
Groton — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, making an appearance at a Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut breakfast Wednesday at the Mystic Marriott while fighting allergies and a cold, touted his relationships with the business community, including discussions at high levels of Pfizer Inc. that led to the donation this month of a building to house a bioscience incubator.
Malloy acknowledged disagreements with Pfizer over its decision to demolish the massive former research center known as Building 118, but said he has been happy that the state's relationship with the New York-based pharmaceutical giant has brought potential business development to the region. The state has committed $4.4 million to renovate Pfizer's Building 286 for use by the bioscience network Connecticut United for Research Excellence.
Malloy said the building could house as many as 12 labs and up to 16 businesses to take advantage of the large number of people in southeastern Connecticut with experience in the biosciences.
"We listened to what you said you need and we are delivering," said Malloy, who announced this month his intention to run for re-election and spoke to a crowd of about 260 people.
Besides the incubator, Pfizer has agreed to lease for $1 a year to the state its former data center known as Building 230.
Ken Hiscoe, director of public affairs for Pfizer, said in introducing the governor that he was pleasantly surprised by Malloy's reaction when he had to inform Malloy three weeks into his term about the company's decision to lay off 1,100 scientists in Groton — about a quarter of the workforce — and move hundreds of scientists to the Boston area.
Malloy wasn't pleased with the news, Hiscoe said, but he asked the right questions: What do I have to do to make sure Pfizer stays in Connecticut and continues to grow jobs?
Hiscoe said the company has hired about 200 people at the Groton labs over the past year or so.
"We expect to hire throughout the year," he added.
Malloy said his relationship with Pfizer is just one example of how he has tried to forge partnerships between the state and the business community. In the nine years before he became governor, Malloy said, the state made investments in 118 companies; since he came to office, more than 1,700 have received support in the form of grants or loans.
Programs the Malloy administration implemented have retained or created about 14,000 jobs in the state, he said. It's a state, Malloy added, that saw no employment growth over a 22-year period while the United States as a whole gained 23 million jobs.
"We got none of them," Malloy said. "That's intolerable."
Malloy also spent time talking about his efforts to keep down Connecticut energy costs. The state is building out natural gas delivery systems and tying into hydroelectricity from Canada as a way to control energy expenses that James Sullivan, chairman of the board for the Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative, said could lead to electricity costs doubling or even tripling over the next four years if measures aren't taken now.
"I'm focused laser-like on this energy issue," Malloy said.
Answering questions from the crowd, Malloy addressed the state teacher evaluation program that is scheduled to go into effect this year. Paul Formica, first selectman in East Lyme and a Republican candidate for state senator in the 20th District, said the program will cost his school system $300,000 to implement.
Malloy said he supports evaluations because a good boss looks at performance on an annual basis and the performance of unreviewed employees can go downhill rapidly. He added, however, that he is amenable to changes in the system.
"We're working with you with respect to modification," he said.