Mickey's Mail - March 21, 2018

 Mickey's Mail - 3/21/18 - Testimony

Last Thursday, I appeared before our state legislature’s Public Safety Committee at a public hearing to voice the BRBC’s support of an open, competitive process to allow a third casino to operate in Connecticut. The state legislature needs to give its approval for that to happen. It occurred to me that my Mickey’s Mail blog this week should be the actual testimony I gave.
By the way, I waited 9 1/2 hours to give this short testimony. A long day to be sure but, I was able to answer questions from committee members after the testimony, which gave me the opportunity to drive home how important we feel a casino|entertainment center would be to our region.
Good morning. My name is Mickey Herbert, and I am President and Chief Executive Officer of the Bridgeport Regional Business Council.
I am here this evening to express my personal support and the support of the BRBC Board of Directors for House Bill 5305 which provides for an open, competitive process for a third casino in Connecticut.
The Bridgeport Regional Business Council, and our affiliates – the Bridgeport Chamber of Commerce, the Stratford Chamber of Commerce, the Trumbull Chamber of Commerce, the Bridgeport Economic Development Corporation, Leadership Greater Bridgeport, THRIVE Emerging Leaders, and the Women’s Leadership Council – are the backbone of economic development in our region. We now number 730 business members. And that number is growing.
We are fortunate to have some remarkable businesses in our region, businesses that step up to support each other and our entire community in significant and enduring ways. Their efforts, their responsiveness, and their leadership is a badge of honor for Greater Bridgeport and for our state.
No one knows better than our membership that Connecticut has been going through some tough times. The Connecticut comeback from the Great Recession has been slow and unsteady. Each of our member businesses see that every day, and they have been doing everything possible to remain responsive to customers, to retain their workforce, and to tighten their belts to survive and hopefully thrive in the months to come.
There are many encouraging signs, and I would say that the vibrancy we are now seeing in the BRBC membership itself reflects and embodies a growing optimism throughout our business community, in Bridgeport and throughout the region.
That said, it sometimes feels as if we are at a crossroads – that we can move forward or fall back. The decisions we make locally and the decisions that are made here in Hartford can have a profound effect on our businesses and the people who live throughout the region.
House Bill 5305 is one prominent example. It would create a fair, reasonable, rational and industry-best-practice approach to awarding Connecticut’s first commercial casino license. That license is a valuable commodity, and it should be treated that way. As a state, we should allow interested businesses, such as MGM and the Tribes that have been operating in our state, and whoever else may be interested, an opportunity to show us how much they’re willing to help, how much they’re willing to give and how many benefits that they can provide, to earn the right to be awarded that license. It makes no sense – and I say this as a business person – to give it away, to simply hand it out without engaging in the due diligence that our businesses and our residents deserve and have every right to expect.
One of the reasons that the prospect of a world-class resort casino in Bridgeport has such potential, beyond the boost it would give to local businesses and the possibility of attracting new businesses to a thriving city, are the thousands of jobs that would be created. A while back, we did some calculations on the impact of 100 new jobs in the Greater Bridgeport Region. We put those numbers up on our website. Remember, these calculations are based on 100 jobs…so if 2,000 jobs are created at a new resort casino and many more jobs are added throughout the region…just keep adding zeros and doubling. 100 jobs = $5.53 million in new personal income.
  • 100 jobs = $111 million in residential home sales
  • 100 jobs = $144,000 in property tax income
  • 100 jobs = $1,97 million in new retail sales
  • 100 jobs = $1,54 million in durable goods sales
And that is just part of the story. The impact on community organizations and the tremendous work they do is just as significant. The impact on keeping and attracting young people to our region and our state, to be an attractive location for start-up entrepreneurial businesses, and a place where people want to work, want to live, want to raise families – all of these things are intertwined and interdependent.
I have been in Connecticut for over four decades, and I have built businesses that survived the roller-coaster that is the Connecticut economy. When I took the job at the Bridgeport Regional Business Council, it was because I was optimistic about our potential. I believe that we can build a new prosperity. And everything I’ve seen since I began this job continues to encourage me.
But just like the other cities in our state, we cannot do it alone. When someone knocks on our door, with $675 million in hand intent on investing in our community, it would be short-sighted and counterproductive to turn them away without a second thought. 
We have had the opportunity to sit down with MGM officials on several occasions. We’ve heard MGM CEO, Jim Murren - who by the way is a Bridgeport native whose mother still lives in our town - and Uri Clinton, MGM’s Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Counsel. Jim Murren is pictured below at the BRBC's Annual Dinner last December and Uri Clinton is pictured below addressing our Government Relations Committee earlier this year.
In our view, they’ve earned the opportunity to have the State of Connecticut consider their plan or any other plan proposed by other entities. Seriously, and deliberately, which is what an RFP process would do.
House Bill 5305 provides a means of evaluating the possibilities, of kicking the tires, looking under the hood, and deciding if what we see can help us to push our economy forward, help our existing businesses, attract new business, and provide the jobs that our residents need.
We have looked at new casino entertainment centers that have opened recently in Detroit and Prince Georges County, Maryland, where I grew up. These are urban communities comparable Bridgeport. Local suppliers, vendors, and contractors in these communities have already benefited from the presence of the new entertainment centers. From supplying table linens to information technology services, food and beverages for restaurants, furniture for hotel rooms, and from accounting services to security services - local businesses have and will continue to benefit. We are confident that will be true in Bridgeport too. Thank you.
So, it would be a far longer blog if I were to describe everything that went on that day and the next. Suffice it to say, the committee ended up amending the bill by eliminating any reference to the proposed casino in East Windsor and then voted to send the bill to the house floor for debate by a resounding 22-3 margin.
One real highlight of the day on Thursday was the entire Bridgeport delegation showing up to testify in support of the bill. I was so amazed at the tenacity and energy exhibited by 84-year old Senator Ed Gomes, who passionately defended our city throughout the long hearing.