Biz Boosters Embrace Big Tobacco – New Haven Independent

Lamont at DISTRICT presser: “I like winning.”

Connecticut is beginning to win” by attracting large, innovative, good-paying employers, Gov. Ned Lamont rejoiced in New Haven Thursday.

Lamont’s team’s Example A: The global tobacco giant Philip Morris International.

State leaders and business boosters touted that example during a press conference Thursday at the DISTRICT innovation and tech hub at 470 James St.

Lamont, state Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) Commissioner David Lehman, and AdvanceCT President and CEO Peter Denious hosted the presser not primarily to focus on the Marlboro maker’s recent decision to relocate its corporate headquarters from Manhattan to Stamford.

Rather, Thursday’s event was to shine a light on a different recent business move — AdvanceCT’s relocation of its headquarters and 23 employees in October from Rocky Hill to a shiny new office space at DISTRICT.

State leaders and business boosters attend the DISTRICT presser.

AdvanceCT is a nonprofit that contracts with state government to try to convince businesses to move to and invest in Connecticut.

Lamont attended the group’s board meeting Thursday to help welcome the company’s new board co-chairs, Yale School of Management Professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld and former Synchrony CEO Margaret Keane. He also used the opportunity to take a victory lap on what he saw as some recent high-profile economic coups for the state.

Thomas Breen photo

AdvanceCT CEO Peter Denious and Gov. Lamont at Thursday presser.

The thing I like about our team: I like winning,” Lamont said from a podium outside of AdvanceCT’s new office space. I’m not a great athlete, but I like winning. And I feel like we’re beginning to win now. I feel like we have a little wind to our back.”

Companies are moving into Connecticut not because we’re giving out a lot of incentives,” he continued, but because of the state’s world-class educational institutions, its skilled workforce, pretty good people, pretty good values.”

Asked for an example of that type of economic winning” — of a company that AdvanceCT has helped convince to come to and invest in Connecticut — Denious pointed to Philip Morris International.

That is: the Big Tobacco corporation that ships hundreds of billions of cigarettes around the world each year, making tens of billions of dollars in the process.

Denious: Making Philip Morris International “feel at home” in Connecticut.

We worked closely with the governor and his team and Commissioner David Lehman to facilitate that conversation and ultimately convince [Philip Morris International] to come here,” Denious said about the imminent Stamford move.

He said that AdvanceCT’s role in helping the tobacco giant relocate to Connecticut came in the form of getting the resources of the state to come together to essentially make the pitch and make somebody like PMI feel at home and point out the great industry resources that we have that they can take advantage of.”

Denious was asked why having Philip Morris International in Connecticut is a cause for celebration, especially given the company’s legacy in addicting and killing millions of people as a central part of its business model.

They’re bringing 200 high-paying jobs to our state,” he replied. If you take the time to hear the PMI story, you’ll hear that this is a company that’s in the process of moving away from smoking tobacco and traditional cigarettes and trying to find better alternatives.”

PMI’s corporate namesake, Philip Morris, and other Big Tobacco companies spent decades lying to the public about the risks of smoking—namely, that it causes cancer and death. In recent years, Philip Morris International has promised to move away from traditional cigarettes and towards non-smoking, heated tobacco devices like IQOS. While the manufacturer is prohibited from marketing its addictive nicotine-laden products to young people, watchdogs and reporters sometimes catch them doing just that.

Philip Morris International sells cigarettes and other tobacco products abroad. It does not directly market or sell its products in the U.S. Marlboro and other Philip Morris-brand cigarette sales in this country are handled by Philip Morris USA, a subsidiary of Altria Group, which spun off Philip Morris International in 2008.

Denious, state development Commissioner David Lehman, and gubernatorial spokesperson Max Reiss.

After the presser, gubernatorial spokesperson Max Reiss and Lehman stressed that the state did not use any tax breaks or other financial incentives to lure the tobacco company to Connecticut. Rather, the company moved because of Connecticut’s good schools, skilled workforce, quality healthcare, and welcoming” business environment, they said.

Reiss also noted how Lamont pushed (unsuccessfully) this year for the state legislature to ban flavored e‑cigarettes.

They knew the policy ecosystem they were entering,” Reiss said about PMI’s planned move to Stamford.

Click here for a recent deep dive by Hearst reporter Paul Schott on the cognitive dissonance of statewide politicians vocally disapproving of cigarette smoking, and then welcoming Philip Morris International’s corporate relocation with open arms.

Big Tobacco Executive: Smoke-Free” Future

PMI Americas Region President Deepak Mishra at DISTRICT on Thursday.

Also at Thursday’s DISTRICT celebration was Deepak Mishra.

In July, Mishra became the president of PMI’s Americas Region. That is, the part of the Big Tobacco company that sells cigarettes and other tobacco products to Canada and Latin America.

As waiters carried around trays of wine and cheese, Mishra said again and again that his company is focusing on a smoke-free future — and is developing the heated tobacco” products to help make that happen.

Those heat not burn” products, like IQOS, warm tobacco and send nicotine into the inhaler’s lungs. The company has pumped the device as a safer alternative to cigarette smoking. Top federal health and safety regulators have disagreed.

Mishra said that his company doesn’t actually sell IQOS in the United States. Rather, they have licensed the product to Altria (the parent company of Philip Morris USA), which in turn sells it in this country.

He said that his company has spent “$8 billion over the last few years” on developing smoke-free technologies. He said 30 percent of its revenue last year came from international sales of such smoke-free products.

We have the goal of making smoke-free products 50 percent of our revenue by 2025,” he said. He said that 15 to 20 million” people around the world have quit cigarette smoking thanks to tobacco-stick products like IQOS.

AdvanceCT’s DISTRICT office space.

And why exactly did his company decide to relocate to Connecticut?

Because of the state’s focus on the life sciences,” Mishra said. Because of its open-mindedness.” And its proximity to New York.

Mishra was asked why anyone should believe anything he had to say about Philip Morris International wanting a smoke-free future.” After all, Big Tobacco spent decades deceiving the public about its research, its business goals, and the incredible harm caused by its marquee addictive products.

We declared our smoke-free vision a number of years ago,” Mishra said. We have grown that [part of the business] consistently.” The proof is in the numbers, he said.

Is he a smoker? He used to be, Mishra said. Until five years ago. He said the tobacco-heating device helped him quit.

Connectors & Packaging, Too

AdvanceCT Board Co-Chair Jeff Sonnenfeld and Amphenol CEO Adam Norwitt.

Big Tobacco wasn’t the only business success story that AdvanceCT leaders emphasized Thursday night.

Denious said that his group currently has over 40 different projects in the pipeline, with plenty of businesses eager to move to or double down on the Nutmeg State.

The Wallingford-based electronic connector manufacturer Amphenol is one such company.

Sonnenfeld and Amphenol President and CEO Adam Norwitt said that the company employs upwards of 80,000 people around the world, including hundreds in Connecticut. Its cables are used in everything from fighter jet cockpits to broadband. Last year the company reported over $8.5 billion in revenue.

The one problem with Amphenol as a company is that they never boast about their successes, Sonnenfeld said with a laugh as Norwitt blushed. Norwitt said his company doesn’t even have a marketing director.

AdvanceCT’s Ted Fisher and Patricia McLaughlin.

Ted Fisher — AdvanceCT’s director for business development, advanced manufacturing — said that Connecticut notched another business win recently by convincing the packaging company Rankpak to build a new facility in Shelton.

He said that Ranpak makes environmentally friendly, flexible packaging products and box systems,” mainly for Amazon. He said AdvanceCT helped Ranpak find the site in Shelton where they now plan on building a new 80,000 square-foot manufacturing facility.

Generally, Connecticut is ripe for advanced manufacturing,” he said.

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