CT MIRROR: Report: Financial services sector remains key part of NE economy
As originally appearing in CT Mirror

BY KEITH M. PHANEUF

The financial services sector accounted for 14 percent of all employment and 22 percent of all wages in Connecticut in 2015, according to a new report released Tuesday by a major regional business association.

The report from the Boston-based New England Council also found that financial services provides 375,460 direct jobs in New England — making it the region’s seventh-largest industry — while accounting for 15 percent of the gross domestic product in New England.

“The financial services industry in New England makes so many other important elements of our economy possible, from buying a home, to starting a business, to insuring a home or vehicle, to saving for retirement,” said James T. Brett, President and CEO of The New England Council. “We hope that policymakers at the state and federal level will read this report and be reminded of the critical role that financial services plays in our region.”

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy absorbed criticism in the second half of 2016 for securing more than $85 million in assistance for two major Connecticut hedge funds.

The state dedicated $52 million in assistance to one of the nation’s largest hedge funds, Bridgewater Associates, to expand facilities in Westport, Wilton and Norwalk.

That package includes $30 million in tax incentives to be awarded over 10 years, a $17 million loan, a $3 million alternative energy installation grant, and a $2 million job training grant. For the entire loan to be forgiven, the company must retain 1,402 existing jobs and create 750 new jobs by the end of 2021, and retain them for two years.

Another $35 million in bonding was approved in November for another major hedge fund, AQR Capital Management of Greenwich.

Malloy said the deal deepens AQR’s ties to Connecticut at a time when it is looking to expand  — and vulnerable to out-of-state inducements. With a headquarters on the New York border, the company was seen as a prime target for the cross-border poaching practiced by New York and Connecticut economic development officials for decades.

The governor defended aid to both hedge funds, arguing they not only are major employers, but contribute significantly to the tax base and overall economy.

But labor leaders and other critics have argued that with state government continuing to struggle with major projected deficits, Connecticut cannot afford to provide what amounts to “corporate welfare” to these hedge funds.

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