Economic development officials in Connecticut are getting on the bandwagon in welcoming the LGBT community with open arms.
The state is already a popular business destination because of its proximity to East Coast markets, skilled workforce and its well-established infrastructure of manufacturing and financial resources.
And while officials still use those benefits when selling the state to outside enterprises, they have added an additional sales pitch touting the relaxed and tolerant attitude of the state’s citizens to the LGBT community, as compared to states such as Mississippi and North Carolina — which have recently passed legislation seen as hostile to the LGBT lifestyle.
According to Connecticut’s Commissioner of Economic and Community Development, Catherine Smith, her department’s strategy is straightforward and very opportunistic.
And a spokesman for the Governor admitted that the state has no qualms about making negative comparisons of states such as Mississippi to Connecticut when courting out-of-state businesses interested in moving to Connecticut.
Spokesperson Devon Puglia said that they will ‘pull out all the stops’ in order to bring jobs into the state.
Commissioner Smith is unapologetic about this strategy. She cited the success of Connecticut in persuading Jackson Laboratory of Maine to withdraw its application to start a second lab in Florida and instead bring it to Connecticut, after the legislature sweetened the deal with a loan and grant package.
But not every state official is quite so gung-ho about it. State Representative Vincent Candelora called it nothing but a ‘stunt’ by Governor Daniel P. Malloy. “It’s not good for business” he said. “It’s just good for Malloy’s PR.”
Candelora says it would be a better plan for state officials to concentrate on keeping businesses in the state, instead of letting them slip away because of high tax rates and excessive government red tape.
North Carolina has put limits on the civil rights of gay and transgender persons. And Mississippi allows businesses to screen their customers for any requests that would go against their religious beliefs — and then refuse them service.
In response, Governor Malloy has banned all state-expensed travel to Mississippi and North Carolina.
In North Carolina a spokesperson for the state’s Economic Development Partnership admitted that Paypal had canceled plans to build a global operations center in Charlotte because of the negative publicity generated by the legislation.
Prior to her appointment as state commissioner, Smith worked in the private sector for Aetna Financial Services in Connecticut. She say that she observed that many large concerns take conservative backlash legislation very seriously, because it makes it very hard to bring in top talent into states that are perceived as intolerant.