There are few teachable moments as rich as Alexion's recent decision to move its world headquarters from New Haven to Boston.
The hope is that Connecticut officials learn that the state's shaky financial condition continues to make it difficult to recruit and retain businesses.
Perhaps the move's most telling aspect of Alexion's decision is the psychological impact.
In a truly vibrant state economy, companies come and go, grow and shrink, start up and die. Any single C-suite announcement shouldn't be that big a deal.
But because Connecticut’s economy has been slow to grow back to pre-2008 levels—recovering just 78% of all jobs lost during the recession— Alexion's departure is high drama.
Jobs Stay in Connecticut
First, some facts:
Alexion, founded out of a Yale lab in 1992, is now a Fortune 1000 company with annual revenues of $3.08 billion.
It has one successful rare-disease medicine, Soliris, and two other FDA-approved drugs, with seven research and development projects in the works.
The company will return, without contention, almost $30 million in direct state financial incentives it got to move its Cheshire labs to New Haven.
That the company will retain 450 very well-compensated employees in New Haven is a positive.
Most, if not all, of the company's founding management team have retired or otherwise moved on.
Alexion's founder, Leonard Bell, is no longer part of the management team or its board of directors
The current CEO, Ludwig Hanston—its fourth in three years—was recruited from Baxalta, headquartered in Kendall Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The most recently installed management team has close ties to Boston and biotech hubs other than New Haven; in fact, they have little connection to New Haven or Connecticut.
Alexion's decision to move its headquarters to Boston was predominantly, if not exclusively, about its leadership knowing Boston well and wanting to be there.
It had little to do with Connecticut's tough business climate.
Although Alexion's departure was for company-specific reasons, it should not give cause to overlook three challenges that confront economic growth:
- Connecticut's long-term fiscal debts
- Its unresolved budget deficit
- Its aging roads, highways and bridges.
Together, these problems too often lead corporate decision makers to see Connecticut's future as one of increasing taxes and diminished services.
Together, however, these structural issues are solvable problems if policymakers work together to revive Connecticut's economy and authenticate our moniker as the bioscience state.