La­m­ont pro­motes the power of jobs

Out­reach to busi­nesses among top pri­or­i­ties for in­com­ing gover­nor

The Norwalk Hour - - SUNDAY BUSINESS - By Alexan­der Soule

Asked in a mid-Septem­ber de­bate for the one word to sum up his fo­cus if elected gover­nor, Ned La­m­ont did not hes­i­tate in de­liv­er­ing that word: jobs.

With La­m­ont ready­ing him­self for his own new job in Hart­ford, he is ask­ing for more in­put from peo­ple who have hired in Con­necti­cut — an ex­er­cise out­go­ing Gov. Dan­nel P. Mal­loy un­der­took af­ter taking of­fice eight years ago, only for many busi­ness lead­ers to sour quickly on his path.

If La­m­ont’s plan for eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment shares some of the tenets of Mal­loy’s — a charge his Repub­li­can op­po­nent Bob Ste­fanowski lev­eled re­peat­edly in his cam­paign — he has built a busi­ness him­self. And La­m­ont knows as well as any politi­cian what it might take to get fi­nanciers in­vest­ing in a re­gion — his spouse An­nie La­m­ont is a manag­ing part­ner of Oak In­vest­ment Part­ners, a pri­vate eq­uity in­vest­ment gi­ant with of­fices in Greenwich and Nor­walk. The gover­nor-elect sug­gested she will have sig­nif­i­cant in­put in the com­ing months and years.

In his cam­paign plat­form to spur job growth, La­m­ont said he would do so by mak­ing it eas­ier for en­trepreneurs to launch star­tups in Con­necti­cut. The ques­tion be­comes how La­m­ont’s brand of startup en­cour­age­ment will dif­fer from that of Mal­loy, with Con­necti­cut hav­ing seen an in­crease in new com­pany for­ma­tion seven of his eight years in of­fice ac­cord­ing to busi­ness reg­is­tra­tions filed with the Con­necti­cut sec­re­tary of the state. That in­cluded a 7.8 per­cent in­crease last year and a 7.4 per­cent gain in new star­tups in the first nine months of this year, with some of those reg­is­tra­tions rep­re­sent­ing ex­ist­ing com­pa­nies fil­ing anew.

La­m­ont says he can do bet­ter, with a num­ber of pro­pos­als in­clud­ing chang­ing Con­necti­cut’s rules on non-com­pete agree­ments that would re­move con­trac­tual bar­ri­ers for cor­po­rate ex­ec­u­tives to set out on their own.

“We’re do­ing a lot of out­reach in par­tic­u­lar with the busi­ness com­mu­nity right now (to) let them know we need them at the ta­ble — what it means for them to stay and grow and in­vest in the state of Con­necti­cut,” the gover­nor-elect said Thurs­day in Hart­ford, in an­nounc­ing his tran­si­tion team. “I’m go­ing to be bring­ing in folks from the busi­ness world that I know … and from the not-for-profit world, to bring a very fresh per­spec­tive in terms of what we

got to do.”

‘An ef­fort to hold the line’

What La­m­ont can do will be lim­ited by a bud­get that is pro­jected by state Comp­trol­ler Kevin Lembo to run a $158 mil­lion sur­plus for the fis­cal year that ends next June be­fore hit­ting ma­jor deficits in com­ing years; and a Gen­eral Assem­bly that did not back Mal­loy’s ini­tia­tives across the board.

La­m­ont said he will phase out Con­necti­cut’s

busi­ness en­tity tax that gen­er­ated $45 mil­lion in rev­enue in the 2017 fis­cal year, which amounts to only $125 a year but is ma­ligned by many busi­ness own­ers for its ap­pli­ca­tion re­gard­less of whether a com­pany turned a profit.

The in­com­ing gover­nor would also re­duce Con­necti­cut’s cap­i­tal stock tax — at 0.37 per­cent of a com­pany’s as­sets last year the high­est of 16 states that charge one, ac­cord­ing to the Tax Foun­da­tion — with­out say­ing by how much. Like New York, which is cur­rently phas­ing out its own cap­i­tal stock tax, Con­necti­cut levies the tax

only if the rev­enue would ex­ceed that it would col­lect from taxes on busi­ness in­come.

And La­m­ont would waive taxes on per­sonal prop­erty for busi­nesses with less than $10,000 in qual­i­fy­ing as­sets. The gover­nor-elect ac­knowl­edges the state would lose lit­tle rev­enue but main­tains it is a headache for small busi­nesses.

“We’re go­ing to hold the line on the in­come tax … (and) I will re­duce the prop­erty tax, just enough to let your peo­ple know that we’re mak­ing an ef­fort to hold the line there,” La­m­ont said

dur­ing an Oct. 30 de­bate at Fox­woods Re­sort Casino. “I’m go­ing to be ruth­less when it comes to look­ing at our health care ex­penses, look­ing at pen­sion re­form, look­ing at the big-ticket items that al­low us to get this state go­ing again.”

‘One step at a time’

Asked at a mid-Septem­ber de­bate in New Haven on his pol­icy re­gard­ing fi­nan­cial in­cen­tives for busi­nesses — a ma­jor leg of Mal­loy’s eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment ef­forts rang­ing from “First Five” grants for cor­po­ra­tions to Small Busi­ness Ex­press loans — La­m­ont

sug­gested Con­necti­cut will re­place hand­outs with high-touch en­gage­ment to land grow­ing com­pa­nies. His busi­ness ad­vi­sory team in­cludes fel­low Greenwich res­i­dent and for­mer Pep­sico CEO In­dra Nooyi, who had been cred­ited with open­ing a chan­nel to the CEO of the in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy out­sourc­ing com­pany In­fosys, which will re­ceive at least $14 mil­lion in in­cen­tives if it hits a tar­get of 1,000 jobs in Hart­ford.

With Mal­loy hav­ing mixed suc­cess with in­cen­tives to spur job growth — ma­jor vic­to­ries in­clude Char­ter Com­mu­ni­ca­tions bring­ing its head­quar­ters to Stam­ford — La­m­ont said he hopes to rely more on the power of per­sua­sion.

“We lead with a bribe, and it’s the wrong way to go,” La­m­ont said in midSeptem­ber at the New Haven de­bate. “The First Five pro­gram was a dis­as­ter for the state of Con­necti­cut, (with) the gover­nor pick­ing and choos­ing. … You do it one step at a time go­ing for­ward: not bribes, not in­cen­tives, not give­aways, not herky-jerky tax pol­icy — con­sis­tency and re­li­a­bil­ity.”

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