There is no way for me to know if Mass Mutual ever seriously considered moving its headquarters out of Springfield. I’ve always viewed the second campus in Enfield, Connecticut (just a few miles away) as a sword of Damocles, reminding city and state officials on both sides of the border that relocation could be achieved without too much difficulty for the employees. It’s probably the case that the recent relatively small shifts of employees to North Carolina and other locations as well as real estate sell offs, were intended to be read, not by insignificant bloggers like me, but by people with a bit more authority in terms of offering multi-million dollar tax breaks.
People are pointing out that Mass Mutual’s commitment to increase the workforce by 1,500 people means no net gain in jobs for the region since it seems to entail shifting 1,500 workers from Enfield to Springfield. The other 500-1,000 employee increase within the Commonwealth will all occur in already job rich Boston. Still, better to keep 4,500 jobs here and get a $50 million upgrade of the State Street headquarters than to be watching those jobs leave the city and/or the region.
It is funny how the state views the Enfield jobs as no different than if a company from Idaho were moving 1,500 employees here, but, state income tax implications aside, this will mean nothing to the region. On the other hand, if the Springfield campus had closed and Mass Mutual’s headquarters been relocated to Enfield all of the positive momentum from CRRC, MGM, and Union Station would have been completely lost.
It will be interesting, with both the GE and MM departures from the Nutmeg State to the Bay State having just been announced, to see how Connecticut officials and politicians deal with the CT Rail expansion into Springfield and beyond. Add to that the accusations being leveled at MGM over meddling at the federal level with the planned tribal casino in East Windsor and how the CT Rail line will feed people from New Haven to Windsor Locks into a brand new train station just blocks from the $960 million dollar MGM resort and you’ve got the makings for some real top quality grandstanding.
In the end, this has been a sort of economic gardening, but at an industrial scale. Springfield really can’t help that it has become reliant on a handful of huge employers. A city that used to be headquarters for numerous regional banks now hasn’t a single hometown bank; too many manufacturers to name have moved away or gone out of business. Growing smaller enterprises and nurturing startups is great, but losing Mass Mutual, Smith & Wesson, or any other big name or big time employer would be devastating.
Mass Mutual’s CEO played a big time game of chicken with the state and got his company $46 million for promising NOT to abandon Springfield. We keep the jobs, and Boston can hope that, perhaps sometime in the near future, the City of Homes will cease to be a ward of the state.