Blue Buffalo opening $100 million facility in Indiana; Conn. lawmakers unhappy

By Kevin Zimmerman

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Blue Buffalo, the Wilton-based pet food manufacturer, is opening a $100 million complex on 89 acres in Richmond, Ind. – a move that a pair of Connecticut state Republicans said is just one more sign that the Nutmeg State needs to become more business-friendly.

The complex will include a pet food manufacturing plant, an R&D facility and an attached warehouse. Blue Buffalo will be eligible for up to $1.6 million in tax credits from the Indiana Economic Development Corp., contingent upon the company’s creation of up to 160 new jobs. Blue Buffalo’s other manufacturing facility is in Joplin, Mo.

“We expect to further increase our internal production capacity and now will have two of the most modern manufacturing facilities in the pet food industry,” said chairman and founder Bill Bishop. “Additionally, we plan to open a state of the art R&D facility on our premises. We are also very proud of our plan to create over 160 full time jobs and look forward to being an upstanding partner in the Richmond community.”

Blue Buffalo CEO Kurt Schmidt added that several sites had been evaluated, but that “Richmond really impressed us …. We look forward to being a part of the community for many years to come.”

“As the best state in the Midwest for business, Indiana offers low costs and taxes, reduced corporate regulations and a skilled Hoosier workforce,” said Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.

Though Gov. Dannel Malloy’s office did not have an immediate response, Connecticut Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano (R-North Haven) and Sen. Toni Boucher (R-Wilton) issued a joint statement decrying the deal.

“Once again our state’s fiscal policies have resulted in another company not expanding in Connecticut,” they said. “The state has become numb to these types of announcements. Years of turning a blind eye to the problems and proposing the same anti-job policies have pushed people to look elsewhere and chased jobs out of our state. And as a result the middle and working class are the ones who suffer.”

Noting that Indiana ran a full-page ad in The Wall Street Journal last year encouraging Connecticut businesses to relocate there, the senators said, “Maybe advertising really does work …. The message was simple: ‘friends don’t let friends pay high taxes.’”

“The package Indiana is offering is modest compared to the packages Connecticut has handed out in its system of choosing winners and losers,” the statement continued. “While Connecticut’s First Five program and special handouts have averaged a cost to the state of approximately $90,000 per job in loans and grants, Indiana’s package only has a potential for approximately $10,000 per job in performance based tax credits – meaning the jobs have to be created first. What’s perhaps more attractive here is the potential to grow in an environment with less tax burdens and more reliability.

“Connecticut is a great state but we have to change the way we operate to create an environment that supports the needs of our families and grows jobs,” the senators added. “We cannot punish employers who are successful. We must create a pro-growth environment that helps all Connecticut businesses, not just a select few. We also need structural changes to create a prosperous and sustainable state. We need to make our state reliable and predictable. We need lawmakers to recognize that business as usual in the state of Connecticut is not good enough.”

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