The Governor’s Chief of Staff said today the state still believes the Pfizer site in Groton has potential for future economic development.
“After months of negotiations, this decision by Pfizer is very disappointing, especially considering that the state was ready to provide substantial support to keep the building from being demolished,” Mark Ojakian said in a statement issued through a spokesman.
But he said deals with stakeholders who will reside in other buildings are nearly final and the governor’s office hopes to announce those shortly.
“We also believe there is a tremendous potential for economic development at the site, and will continue to have conversations to turn that potential into reality,” Ojakian said.
The vice chairman of Groton’s economic development commission says its not too late to save Pfizer's former research headquarters from demolition and agree on a development plan that is acceptable to the state and the company.
George Mathanool was part of a group that sought to create a private entity to manage the headquarters and other vacant buildings on Groton’s Pfizer campus by creating a foundation of shareholders, and then a for-profit company to seek private investors and tenants.
“I think at this point there is a certain level of impasse,” Mathanool said. But he added, “I believe we still have time, maybe until April, to convince Pfizer with the right plan that may provide shareholder confidence.”
“I don’t think all is lost until the ball hits the wall.”
known as Building 118 on Eastern Point Road, and would raze the former headquarters.
State Senators Andrew Maynard (D-Stonington), Andrea L. Stillman (D-Waterford), Representatives Ted Moukawsher (D-Groton), Elissa Wright (D-Groton), and Betsy Ritter (D-Waterford) released a joint statement expressing "extreme disappointment" with the company’s decision.
“Frankly, this is a slap in the face to all of us who worked so hard to see this building repurposed,” Maynard said in the statement.
Moukawsher said he believed the company never intended to sell or lease the building but wanted to wreck it and take the tax write-off.
“A truly promising outcome for Building 118 has been thwarted by corporate cold-bloodedness,” he wrote.
But Mathanool said all corporations must answer to shareholders; it’s the nature of publicly-owned companies. He said Pfizer has been magnanimous for more than 70 years and needs goodwill from Southeastern Connecticut as well as an understanding of its concern over economic espionage, or the security of its intellectual property.
Under the proposal by Mathanool, a former international banker; Robert Frink, a former project manager for construction and technology projects; and Eric Foster, a former Federal Reserve and trade association attorney, a foundation could be organized with stakeholders including those appointed by the state.
Pfizer could then sell the property to the foundation for a nominal amount, such as the cost of demolition. Next, the group would set up a for-profit company to seek private investors, lessees for the space and pay dividends back to the foundation.
Mathanool said it costs $18 million to keep Building 118 open if all lights are on and all areas are properly heated and cooled. But he said this is not necessary; the building is divided inside, so all the lights do not have to be on, he said.
“The idea is that we’ve got to be cognizant of Pfizer’s business (security concerns), and whatever business we bring in there has to go to be acceptable to Pfizer, unless we’re demanding that Pfizer pack up and leave next month,” he said.
He said the alternative – waiting too long or letting the building go - could have a devastating impact on the region. Pfizer employs 3,500 people, and for every one that leaves, it affects five other jobs.
“I think the public needs to be worried, because if this thing falls through, it’s going to hit everybody in their stomach. What we say in Asia is, ‘It’s going to hit people in the rice bowl. In their rice bowl where they eat’,” he said.
“I’d like to encourage all parties to come together at least one more time.”