Malloy praised by UTC exec who panned state business climate

Gregory J. Hayes, the prominent executive who rattled the political establishment a year ago by telling Wall Street that “anyplace outside of Connecticut is low cost” when it comes to doing business, gave a thumbs up Tuesday night to the new governor’s approach to finance and economic development.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy shared a stage at the University of Hartford with Hayes, the chief financial officer of United Technologies Corporation, who says he still is surprised by how his remarks to business analysts infuriated and embarrassed some politicians, while winning praise from others.

An unapologetic Hayes said he was stating the obvious.

“It’s kind of like saying the sky is blue, and then everybody all of a sudden steps back and says, ‘Oh, my God, the sky is blue,'” Hayes said.

Hayes said Connecticut remains a high-cost place to do business, along with many other states, but overall he was a more upbeat analyst Tuesday night at a Hartford Courant Key Issues Forum, praising Malloy’s initial efforts to stabilize the state’s finances and improve its business climate.

“What the governor is doing is absolutely the right thing, and that is saying the state of Connecticut is open for business,” Hayes said after the forum. “And we’re going to support him in those efforts. We’re not going to agree on everything with the governor, but for the most part we think he’s on the right track.”

Malloy, Hayes and Susan Coleman, a UofH finance professor, sat a table for an hour, fielding questions from Tom Condon of The Courant. Pressed by Condon about the state’s business climate, Hayes gave a qualified endorsement.

“It is a good place to do business, with the caveat it’s got to be the right kind of business,” Hayes said.

The governor made little news, other than announcing he intends to approve or reject the proposed Hartford-to-New Britain busway after a showdown meeting he has called with proponents and opponents. After hearing from both sides, Malloy will decide whether to begin construction.

“I’m already engrossed in economic development,” said Malloy, who has yet to name a new commissioner of economic development.

Barring a protracted crisis in the Middle East, Malloy said, he expects unemployment in Connecticut to drop one percent a year for the next three years, leaving the state with a 6 percent unemployment rate.

“I think that’s reasonable,” he said.

Malloy praised UTC, a manufacturer that has relentlessly shrunk its Connecticut work force in recent decades, for bringing engineering jobs back into the state and for winning engine business that could add jobs at its subsidiary, Pratt & Whitney.

The U.S. House of Representatives recently voted to scuttle an alternative engine program that would force Pratt to share with business with General Electric on the Joint Strike Force fighter program. If the Senate concurs, it could mean 1,000 new jobs in Connecticut.