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ING Abandons Rentschler Move

Unable To Resolve Deadline Issues, Company Announces Plan To Build Facility In Windsor

January 10, 2006
By DAN UHLINGER, Courant Staff Writer

Citing critical construction issues and a pressing deadline, ING Group pulled the plug Monday on its plan to move 2,000 workers from Hartford to a site at the $2 billion development planned for Rentschler Field in East Hartford.

Instead, the Dutch financial services conglomerate announced it would build a facility in Windsor and still meet a key goal of state officials who wanted, at a minimum, to keep the workers in Connecticut.

"The important thing is that ING remains committed to Connecticut," Gov. M. Jodi Rell said. "My office and our Department of Economic and Community Development will continue to do everything we can to keep ING here and help them grow and create more jobs."

Windsor officials said they were unaware that ING decided recently to give up on Rentschler Field and obtain an alternate site on Day Hill Road from a private company. ING would not provide further details about the Windsor site, or whether the company would meet a December 2007 deadline to relocate.

"Wow, this is good news, but I never feel good about taking a business from another town," Windsor Mayor Donald Trinks said.

"We were very unaware of the decision made today," Windsor Town Manager Peter Souza said. "This is exciting for us and for all of Greater Hartford to be able to preserve jobs."

The Matos Group, which is developing Rentschler, and East Hartford officials expressed disappointment with ING's decision, but said it would not affect the long-term viability of the project.

"It's really not a setback," said Dan Matos, whose company was chosen by United Technologies Corp. to develop its 650-acre tract where the University of Connecticut football stadium is located.

"Rentschler is a project that is going to move forward with the client we feel is the most important - Cabela's, the country's largest direct marketer of outdoor merchandise," Matos said.

"There remains strong interest from other financial and technological companies and we will continue discussions with those companies," he said.

The original vision for Rentschler called for a mixed-use development, including retail, but with the main focus on research companies and not ING, Matos stressed.

"When ING became active in the market the last couple years and there were limited options, the state persuaded UTC and the Matos Group that it would be in the area's best interest to work with ING," Matos said.

"We're very disappointed, but we all tried very hard. The unfortunate truth is ING has a very short window," he said. "It was a virtual impossibility from the start that the parties could meet ING's schedule. But everyone worked very hard to make it happen. We wish them well and we're delighted they're staying in Connecticut. That was our goal."

Operating under a tight deadline, ING announced in early August that it wanted to construct a four-story, $90 million building at Rentschler. ING said its lease from Aetna in Hartford would expire in December 2007 and it had to find a new home for an estimated 2,000 workers.

Just days after the announcement, East Hartford officials approved a tax abatement plan worth about $6.5 million for ING as an inducement to locate at Rentschler. State development officials, ING and UTC then began negotiations on a package of incentives to seal the deal.

The negotiations continued through the end of 2005 but faltered. A source familiar with the negotiations said an agreement had been reached on a financial package, but the state could not give ING a guarantee that the new roads and infrastructure at Rentschler could be built in time.

Phil Margolis, a spokesman for ING, would not comment Monday on the specifics of the negotiations.

"The Rentschler Field development is a large-scale economic development project. As is the case with these complex projects, it has its own set of challenges to meet before development can begin. Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful in resolving critical, site-specific issues in order for us to move forward within the time frame required to meet our corporate needs," Margolis said.

Spokesmen for Rell and UTC also would not comment on the negotiations.

"The UTC property at Rentschler Field in East Hartford remains an important site for economic development east of the Connecticut River, and we will continue to support every effort to attract well-paying, satisfying jobs to that location," Rell said.

Paul Jackson, a UTC spokesman, said all the parties involved worked diligently to iron out the issues and UTC remained optimistic that the development would go forward, but not at the pace that ING had hoped.

"ING had a very tight timetable. And all the parties worked very hard to get it done in time," he said. "From our perspective, the overall plan remains on track and we're very confident that it will continue."

East Hartford Mayor Melody Currey said the town had done everything it could.

"We stepped up to the plate and offered tax abatements. We're just victims of the times, of the circumstances," she said.

Currey said other companies have contacted officials about Rentschler.

"That's a big silver lining," Currey said. "This is not a death knell for our community. It is the opening of doors for other opportunities."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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