Jun 05, 2023

Connecticut stronger for businesses than people realize

I moved to Connecticut a decade ago when I was fortunate enough to become CEO of Mott Corporation, a Farmington-based, employee-owned, high-tech engineering and manufacturing company. I was initially amused by how down people from Connecticut are about their home state, and the business climate in particular.

Since then, my company has entered more than 70 foreign markets, and that sense of amusement has turned into concern. The fact that Connecticut doesn't see — let alone tout — its strengths damages our ability to compete for jobs and growth we should be winning.

We need to correct the record, and there are two main strengths policymakers and the business community should promote — especially in light of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the CHIPS and Science Act. Together, they have the potential to drive the creation of tens of thousands of jobs in our state.

One strength is the caliber of local, world-class companies in the manufacturing and tech spaces, and the other strength is the responsiveness of our local, state, and federal governments.

Let me first give some context: my company manufactures high-precision filters and flow control products. Our products allow satellites to operate in the furthest reaches of our solar system, and they help make sure the smart phone in your pocket turns on every time you touch the screen. They’re highly technical, and you don't know they exist — as long as they’re working.

Our global headquarters is on a leafy, quiet street in Farmington. We recently expanded our facility in part because we know we can continue to grow here. To research, engineer, and produce the highest-quality solutions for our customers, we need partnerships with companies whose proprietary technologies enable our products to achieve new levels of heat resistance, precision, and quality control. After searching the world for companies that can meet our precision and reliability needs, we often find that the best partners are our neighbors right here in Connecticut.

Here are two of the many examples of partnerships we have built. Joining Technologies, based in East Granby, has pioneered laser welding technology that allows us to fuse materials that have never been fused before. The resulting composites can withstand plasma-level temperatures — in excess of 11,000 degrees Fahrenheit — which are essential for producing next-generation computer chips and electric vehicle batteries.

Another of our Connecticut partners, Trumpf Inc., headquartered less than a mile from Mott, pushes the boundaries of measurement and quality control using machine learning. Its technology allows us to measure roughness and flatness at microscopic levels, down to the size of a human hair, which is critical for semiconductor production.

Those specific technologies don't exist anywhere else in the world. They only exist in Connecticut, in Farmington and East Granby.

Our private sector partnerships are strengthened by the fact that our state and local governments are responsive to our needs and advocate for us when it counts. This was clearer than ever during the pandemic. Early on, when governments across the world had to make tough decisions to limit the spread of COVID-19, there was a huge amount of confusion — for families concerned about their survival, but for businesses, too.

When I had questions about how a particular decision to limit in-person interaction would affect my company, I didn't go to Google. I called David Lehman, who was Gov. Ned Lamont's economic development commissioner for the state. His office called me back within the hour, and gave me the certainty I needed to make the best decision for our customers and employees.

That responsiveness goes beyond crises like a global pandemic. When we lost power one day last year, it had the potential to delay our production schedule and cause us to miss key deadlines for our clients. Again, one call to the state, and the power company gave us a timeline with which to work. When I reached out to the mayor of Hartford, Luke Bronin, about how we could work together to strengthen regional economic competitiveness, he replied quickly, eager to do whatever he could to bring jobs to our capital city.

And just in the last few months, as my company has been exploring how we can take advantage of new federal funding in the IRA and the CHIPS Act, Gov. Lamont and his administration, U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, and our U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-5, have all pledged to fight for us and our employees, as they would any Connecticut company.

That kind of response isn't partisan in Connecticut. I’m confident our state would elect both Republicans and Democrats who would fight for progress. That's just how we operate in this small state.

For a growing company like mine, those partnerships with companies and government can be the difference between winning a deal that creates 25 new local jobs, or losing it. You don't have to take my word for it; the numbers speak for themselves. Connecticut added more than 4,500 manufacturing jobs in the last year.

You’re not alone if you’re surprised by that – good news doesn't travel fast here. But we shouldn't be surprised. Connecticut has all the tools to attract the jobs of tomorrow, as long as we continue to work together, improve the business climate and – every now and then – show some well-deserved confidence in our great state.

Boris Levin is CEO of Farmington-based Mott Corporation.

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