"Corporate Dan" Malloy says he means business
STAMFORD -- Feeling a sudden impulse to depart, Dan Malloy signals to Arielle Reich and his companions at the bar at Napa & Co. to swallow their drinks. It's a little past 9 in the wine bar that is the Malloys' favorite, right at the corner of Broad and Summer streets in downtown Stamford. His family is all around him tonight. They've all congratulated him on his performance at the budget town hall meeting down the street, crowding around him in the din of the airy restaurant as waiters zip by, bearing charcuterie plates and trays of red wine.
Outside in the bracing late March air, Dan Malloy nods approvingly at the city he led for 14 years. In front of him, a river of Tuesday night traffic shushes past the downtown's blocky, opaque shopping mall, the soaring hotel, the condo high-rise. "A lot different from Hartford," he murmurs with satisfaction.
In the governor's hand is his cellphone, its address book scrolled to the name and number of Patrick Sullivan, the droll Zelig of the state Capitol complex: a hyper-connected arch-Republican with a calm chuckle and a hand, seemingly, in almost everything.
The interlude of wine and chumminess is over. It will be a business call. Malloy wants to know why the businessmen are all so quiet.
"If I was a Republican governor doing what I'm doing, many of the people you know would be embracing it," Malloy says urgently, frustration lacing his voice, as the car rocks northward, back toward Hartford. "But right now, many of them are going to bed!"
The Democratic governor's budget contains plenty for Republicans to hate, not least the $1.5 billion in tax increases. But he says he's resisting the urge that overcomes so many of his fellow Democrats, to demagogue businesses and corporations, to blame the rich and the big companies for making all the money and sticking the middle class with the bill. And at most of his budget town hall meetings so far, he has been verbally smacked around by various components of the left for doing what he's doing. They've come with signs and talking points, bashing Bank of America, denouncing millionaires, and urging him to squeeze the money the state needs out of someone else's pockets.
Other opponents of his budget are there, too, people who feel every tax hike it would impose would put this industry or that one -- hairstyling, yacht management, car washing -- out of business forever.
Where, Malloy demands of Sullivan, are his Republican businessmen friends, the ones who, Sullivan must admit, know that the first Democratic governor in a generation could have been much worse news for them and theirs.
"This is my fight, and I should win it," he says. The governor is louder now, angry. "That's what they expect. We'll see."
"The unions, they think that they win from a protracted fight. They win. I will tell you, from the last four of these, they're winning! There's no one even showing up to argue the other side."
skeptical of a democrat
His focus on business was a point of pride. For one, he had long ago internalized a classic conservative critique of the Legislature: that its default mode was anti-business, annoying or downright threatening to the employers the state desperately needed to preserve and protect. But he also thought the people getting credit for making business interests happy hadn't earned it. Malloy memorized anecdotes and gossip on this score during the long campaign and then in the months that followed his taking office. Painstakingly, he cataloged the ways that Jodi Rell, his predecessor, had failed to make the necessary courtesies and alliances with major companies. Malloy would be different. They'd view him skeptically -- a Democrat, might as well be a labor organizer ringing their doorbell -- but he'd show up, make a play for their attention and ultimately for their support.
It didn't go unnoticed.
In early summer, Tom Swan, the consumer activist and political operative, is standing with Rick Melita, the longtime union organizer turned aide to House Speaker Chris Donovan. They're talking about politics, joking about the causes of the day. And they're gossiping about Malloy, especially his "First Five" program, which has shoveled new incentives to companies like CIGNA, the very sort of big-business move that Swan and his cohort attack when Republicans do it.
Some people, Swan says, are already starting to call the new governor "Corporate Dan."
A GOVERNOR'S SALES CALL
The state unions are voting on a concessions deal again on Aug. 18, but Dan Malloy is out of Hartford, on the road. The visit is to Bridgeport Fittings in Stratford, a giant warehouse and factory floor in a park of buildings tucked off Lordship Boulevard, near Sikorsky Memorial Airport. This visit is nominally part of the Jobs Tour, the successor series Roy Occhiogrosso and Colleen Flanagan have concocted to follow the town halls that focused on the budget. But really, it's what he's been doing all along, a packed slate of field trips to any interesting business that would have him.
He tours the state like a candidate, "hmm"-ing and nodding at the clanking machinery, memorizing an isolated fact here and there to drop into the stump speech.
In Stratford, this day the governor is late. Catherine Smith, his economic development commissioner, arrives ahead of him, smiling. Smith enters a room with the eager countenance of a competitive runner waiting for the next challenge. ("I have never," a deputy wearily reports this morning, "worked so hard in my life.")
Soon, Dan Malloy arrives, gives some perfunctory remarks about the business climate and joins the tour of the factory floor. It's sparingly lit, and the din of the industrial fans is drowned out by the hard metallic clanking of the zinc casting machines. The governor waits patiently, everyone barely hearing, as the chunks of raw zinc trundle up the conveyors and down the chute, waiting to be melted down.
Malloy's made a habit of these visits, to small firms, and to the state's biggest.
"We are and will be the largest employer in Connecticut for a long time to come," Louis Chenevert tells Dan Malloy one morning in April, in a little conference room in a squat brick building far inside the gate of Pratt & Whitney's manufacturing plant in Middletown. Chenevert is a former assembly line worker who rose to be CEO of United Technologies, Pratt's parent company. He retains from that rise a French Canadian accent and a handshake like a metal stamping machine. Malloy is quiet and attentive, soaking up the details from the slides splashing out on the screen to his left.
Out on the floor, Chenevert emanates pride at the machinery and slimmed-down manufacturing process that surrounds them. They are walking along the painted concrete floor, alongside workers assembling the new turbofan jet engine that Chenevert says will transform not just UTC's market position but the economics of air travel, just like the first piston engine that "built Pratt & Whitney." Malloy nods along, an attentive tour recipient, humoring his host.
These visits are important. UTC has been shedding employees in recent years but now claims to be poised for growth. Either way, Malloy has no choice. The campus they are standing on holds 2,200 employees in more than 2 million square feet, soaks up enough electricity off the grid each day to power a 35,000-population town. He feels he can afford to lose none of it. So Malloy is here, joshing with a machinist in a Red Sox hat about baseball. (Malloy is a nominal Yankees fan; in truth, the only sport he really cares about is ice hockey.) And he is solicitous and jovial with Chenevert.
There are 80 aerospace-related companies in the state, Malloy announces, apropos of not much, during the tour. It's the stat he picked up during the visit at Volvo Aero. It is most important now as a figure he wants Chenevert to know he knows. The state needs this company, and Dan Malloy hasn't forgotten.
BAD NEWS FROM LOUIE
A few months later, as the governor is hurrying from a meeting of hedge fund leaders to the car, late for a jaunt to New York to scare up business, he is waiting for a call. When it finally arrives, he answers the phone in a hurry, jabbing at the button. "Louie."
Chenevert is calling to give the governor a heads-up on UTC's purchase of Goodrich, a parts-maker for aerospace machinery. It's not necessarily good news. Some jobs at United Technologies will be rendered redundant by the acquisition; the corporation's share price dips sharply on news of the sale price. Malloy is quiet as Chenevert explains the deal and his company's reasoning.
"Obviously, I have to be concerned about jobs, as you can understand," Malloy says eventually. "Whenever you need something from us, whatever jobs we can compete for, we want to compete. I do believe that we're creating a different climate here in Connecticut. I certainly want to work with you on all of that."
The governor pledges more work to alleviate UTC's tax credit headaches, reiterates his drive to educate a new workforce for high-value manufacturing, talks about adding new international flights at Bradley International Airport.
It's a phone call of mixed news, at best, but Malloy puts down the phone and suggests there is triumph at hand. The triumph is that Chenevert called him at all.
"He and I have developed a relationship," Malloy says. "He was not happy with Connecticut for a long period of time."
a malloy veto ...
It's just after 3 p.m. on July 20, and Trooper First Class Rich Garcia is standing by the unlit bar inside 121 Restaurant, hard by the runway of Oxford Airport, eyeing a glass of water that has some suspicious, flaky granules floating in it. A paper sign taped to the glass front door says the restaurant is closed for a private meeting, which is what Garcia is keeping an eye on from a discreet distance. Around a table across the room are the people pushing for the state to create an economic development zone in the wooded hills surrounding this airport. Chamber of commerce members. Executives of Key Air, whose multimillion-dollar jets are parked in hangars visible through the restaurant windows. Town officials, and the local delegation to the General Assembly.
They go around the table, cordially explaining the benefits of the project to their visitor, Dan Malloy, who is wearing a slightly baggy black suit and listening intently. He's already vetoed the development zone once, earlier in the summer. No one had lobbied him for it intently, and the governor was determined to create a state airport authority with real teeth, the right sort of agency to make these decisions. Furthermore, the Malloy administration wondered about a rat -- the legislative term of art for a deal that has some hidden beneficiaries -- the way the muscle suddenly swelled up behind this thing, trying to push it through. Someone had to have some sort of deal.
But the locals are furious over his veto. They really want this bill, and so does Chris Donovan, the House speaker who could use some concrete local benefits to point to as he prepares his run for Congress in the 5th District. So Malloy is here to hear them out.
And he's generally open to the idea, at least until it's Sen. Rob Kane's turn to speak. Kane is sitting right next to Malloy. He's a feisty, younger Republican, one who has already thrown some jabs at the governor's budget and especially at his veto of their earlier bill for the airport. He does not take the diplomatic route now.
"I want you to promise me that this bill will be part of the special session," Kane says.
Dan Malloy gives Rob Kane a long look.
"I'm not going to make any guarantees," he tells the senator.
Afterward, the governor strolls through a hangar, among the sleek jets, with James Redeker, the transportation commissioner, and employees from Key Air. Helicopters from the governments of Turkey and the United Arab Emirates sit off to one side, under contract with Sikorsky, here for tests.
A boyish man in a suit, part of the new investor team that joined Key Air in 2007, is talking about plans for new investment: another $30 million or so. Their manner is one of small talk, but this is the guy's chance to give the governor the hard sell.
"So, we'd like it to be here," he says of the $30 million his company wants to invest, "but if we can't put it to work here, we'll have to put it to work elsewhere." The calculus of the governor and the businessman is never more simple: They could literally fly across the border to Westchester County in a week, if they wanted.
Malloy takes the message in stride. "Well, if it's OK with Senator Kane," he says sarcastically, raising his eyebrows, "we will."
... and then a deal
In mid-October, James DeSantos, the governor's legislative liaison, pops in the doorway on one side of Roy Occhiogrosso's office, almost two weeks before their planned vote on a jobs bill.
"Oxford," DeSantos says.
"Yeah?" Occhiogrosso answers through a mouthful of lettuce. He is demolishing a salad.
"I got answers to the two questions he had."
"That he had?" Occhiogrosso asks, meaning the boss.
"Yeah. He f-----g grilled me about it this morning."
Roy looks at the sheet of paper DeSantos drops on his desk, an analysis of the Oxford enterprise zone provision. "He's not going to like the answer to question 2."
No, keep reading, DeSanto responds: "Look at the second paragraph."
It says that while the power station near Oxford Airport would be included in a new enterprise zone, it would not qualify for a windfall tax break. That language will mollify Malloy, who had been suspicious that the airport incentive zone could help existing companies cadge tax breaks out of the state, rather than growing jobs. In the end, they'll agree to a compromise, one that centralizes control within his reach: no special zone for Oxford, but the newly created Airport Authority can grant them one.
"OK," says Occhiogrosso, pointing at DeSantos with an index finger, "your boy has to go in there and apologize."
They agree to have Nancy Wyman call Kane. If he wants to resurrect Oxford's chances for inclusion in the jobs bill, he will go make nice.
Occhiogrosso still feels the slight against his boss as acutely as Malloy does.
"If we do this during the special session, and he does anything that ever looks like gloating, I'll f-----g kill him."
Wyman issues her report of the phone call to Kane the following day in a staff meeting.
"He's ready to kiss a--," the lieutenant governor says.
Malloy still doesn't like it, but his advisers remind him not to pick unnecessary fights. "We're doing this for another reason," Occhiogrosso says. In other words, a feather in the electoral cap for Chris Donovan.
"Why don't we make the whole state an enterprise zone, and everyone can not pay their property taxes for five years?!" Malloy scoffs. But they sign off, and when the jobs bill passes overwhelmingly, the airport enterprise zone is in it.
Tomorrow: Two fellow governors, Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie, are Malloy's rivals on the national stage. Malloy is wary of one and openly spars with the other.