Jan. 01--The fallout from the shootings in Newtown led to the year's most important business story: the gun control law that threw the state's historic firearms industry into turmoil. But for the most part, the biggest business and economic stories of the year were not about the happenings in Connecticut's traditional industries such as aerospace, biotech and insurance. Rather, they came from the world of regulated consumer services: casino expansion, a hospital strike, electric rates, a telecom merger and online sales taxes. Overall job creation is always key, of course, as is urban development. And one of the biggest business stories, the launch of the state's health exchange, isn't on this list because it was among the Courant's Top 10 stories of the year for all news.
An Industry Under Attack
The suspense was long over by noon on April 4, when Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed what is arguably the nation's strictest gun control law, vastly expanding the list of banned firearms and adding registration requirements for rifles. It was a disappointment for the handful of gunmakers in Connecticut upholding a 200-year tradition, and some threatened to leave for friendlier states. The law roiled the local gun industry and created confusion, at least until everyone sorted out the 160 pages that had been barely read by lawmakers. In reality, there never was much of a battle over the law as Malloy excluded the industry from his task force after a shooter killed his mother, 20 first-graders and six educators in Newtown. One of the gunmakers, PTR Industries of Bristol, announced its exit. Others, including Colt's Manufacturing Co., Stag Arms and O.F. Mossberg, and magazine-maker Ammunition Storage Components, all flooded with offers from other states, said they would most likely look elsewhere for future growth.
Job Picture Improves, With Worries
Connecticut ends the year on pace to add about 16,000 jobs, which would be the best showing since 2006 if it were to survive the early 2014 revisions. And the unemployment rate, now at 7.6 percent, has fallen steadily if slowly through the year. Overall, the pace still trails the nation's gains but not as much as it did in 2012, when we lost ground badly. Several big worries: The quality of jobs remains in question as the state's median family income continues to slip. The number of people out of work for more than six months remains perilously high. And the declines in the jobless rate have been fed largely by people giving up looking for work. In fact, even though employers report that they're adding jobs, household surveys show fewer people working.
Betting On A Massachusetts Miracle
Mohegan Sun's $1 billion plan for Palmer, Mass., for a gambling palace with two hotels, retail and a water park, was one of two casino proposals still alive in western Massachusetts on Election Day. But despite offering as much as $18 million a year to a town with a budget of $32 million, Mohegan saw its Palmer dream go down by 94 votes in a referendum. By the time the town finished a recount an inexcusable three weeks later, news had leaked out that Mohegan boss Mitchell Etess had his sights on Revere, just north of Boston, where Suffolk Downs had found itself without a gaming partner in its competition against Wynn Resorts in Everett. Foxwoods, meanwhile, had its latecomer plan trounced by voters in Milford. Now the Mohegan vote in Revere is set for Feb. 25 with a huge payoff for the town, making rejection unlikely. The Boston Globe reports that Foxwoods is in talks for a casino in the southern part of the state. So Connecticut's tribes had a wild year in the casino expansion game and both still have hopes alive.
Huge Tracts Of Office, Unwanted
Connecticut long took for granted the state's sprawling office parks, some built in the early '80s, each one occupied by a single, giant company. No more. Aetna vacated its Middletown complex, the size of Westfarms mall, in 2011, and that was demolished. Now The Hartford, a year after selling off several divisions, has its Simsbury campus, once the work home for thousands, up for sale, an