Letter: Few plans to keep GE in Fairfield, or if it leaves town
Published 6:14 am, Friday, September 25, 2015
First Selectmen Tetreau’s Sept. 18 statement enumerating his involvement in efforts to keep General Electric in Fairfield is welcome information. The first selectmen is distancing himself from some of the unfortunate policy decisions of the Malloy administration, an administration that Mr. Tetreau closely aligned himself with until now and supported when Gov. Malloy won two narrow victories in statewide elections.
Our first selectmen should be doing and reporting to the public on more than advocating to keep GE in Fairfield and serving as an information conduit between the state and the company. In August, he said in an WFSB interview that what is needed is a full page ad in the Wall Street Journal explaining why Connecticut is a business friendly state. “Until we have an ad, we don’t have a plan,” Mr. Tetreau stated. A newspaper ad is no plan for Fairfield’s situation.
It appears likely that GE is leaving, and there is an unconfirmed report that it may consider donating all or part of its headquarters property to a local university. The first selectmen needs to work with GE to assure that any donation will not result in a loss of revenue to the town. Alternative uses for the site should be rapidly developed by Fairfield’s Economic Development Office. The first selectmen should also seek a commitment from GE to maintain its vital charitable links to the community.
The possible impact of GE’s departure on property valuations must be carefully considered. Homeowners will be locked into revaluations lasting five years to be announced in early November, but they may find actual values plummeting in the aftermath of GE’s decision. Any decline in the town’s grand list from GE’s action will have an adverse effect on mill rates. The Board of Education is embarking on an evaluation of redistricting. The impact, if any, of losing children from relocating families must be quantified early in the redistricting evaluation.
I am sure that GE does not intend to behave like so many manufacturing companies that abandoned towns across the Northeast and Midwest, creating a rust belt of economic and social decline. It is up to our first selectmen to advise GE on ways to remain engaged with Fairfield, a town that has graciously hosted this important company for 40 years.
We have had more than four years of a Tetreau administration with only recent stirrings of interest in the development of a strategic plan for Fairfield. Lack of disciplined forward thinking from town officials will deepen the impact of GE’s departure on all of us. We need bold leadership, effective planning, rapid deployment and transparent communications from our first selectman. On the day GE announces its decision, we need to be confident that the first selectman is prepared and has a plan to lead us into a new era. Fairfield has the potential to thrive even without GE remaining here if there is proper planning and strong leadership.