Columnist Collins distorted truth about candidate Somers' company

I have significant journalistic integrity issues with David Collins' column Wednesday titled "Why did state lose money in Somers' company." More important I have an issue with the agenda that Collins brought to his column, and that agenda's potential impact on the lives of Connecticut residents.

In this piece about Hydrofera LLC, a company in which Heather Somers of Groton was one of the founders - she is running in next week's Republican primary for lieutenant governor - Collins went far out of his way to distort the truth to arrive at the article he'd written before he did the research. Collins wanted outrage whether there was outrage to be had or not.

The premise of his outrage hinged on the "refusal" of CT Innovations and me to give him the dollar amount Hydrofera LLC was sold for.

Both Lauren Carmody, director of public relations at CT Innovations, and I told Collins that the sale figure on a privately held company was confidential information. I do not even know the figure because it is not legal for anyone to disclose that information unless the current owners want to disclose it. I might agree that should be reformed for companies receiving state investments, but it is the law.

Collins also tried to claim outrage over "transparency" because he could not get 10-year-old archived documents from CT Innovations in the single afternoon he gave them. What CT Innovations told him is they could get him the documents he wanted but it would take a couple of days.

The fact is there is nothing to hide and no outrage to be had because this is a company that has been a success for the state of Connecticut and our region. Without finding a single piece of damaging information Collins had to qualify his distortions, saying things like "what appears to have been a significant profit" and "I would bet Somers did not lose more than half".

What Collins tuned out was the story of a company that has generated millions of dollars in tax revenue for the state of Connecticut, wiping out many times over any investment loss from CDA. Collins heard the success story of a small biotech business that grew to create dozens of good, quality jobs in Willimantic. The story of one Connecticut business that beat the odds to succeed here and is still here.

That brings us to the danger of Collins' distortions. The company that bought Hydrofera has to date agreed to stay in Connecticut and has been considering an expansion in Connecticut. Companies consider many factors when making those types of decisions and their treatment by local press is one. Collins' attempted smear of a candidate for office has the potential implication of costing Connecticut residents their jobs and our region's future economic development.

What does it say to business people trying to make it work in Connecticut when a local columnist will bend over backwards to slime them after they created 40 good, quality jobs in one of the most distressed parts of the state and put millions into the local economy?

It's no wonder so many businesses are leaving our state and that Connecticut is consistently ranked in the bottom five states for business when columnists with an agenda like David Collins do their best to demonize business people who have created real jobs and opportunity in our state.

This is just the latest example of why Connecticut so desperately needs new leaders with experience in the private sector. Leaders who haven't been a part of the mess insiders have created in Hartford. I hope Tuesday, Aug. 12, you will consider voting for a leader with real Connecticut business experience, Heather Somers.

Jon Conradi is Heather Somers' campaign manager.

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