November 14, 2018

Insurers: Hartford donation meant to spur city's most vulnerable assets

HBJ File Photo
HBJ File Photo
Hartford's skyline.
HBJ Photo | Joe Cooper
HBJ Editor Greg Bordonaro, left, speaking during HBJ's Nov. 14 Community Excellence and Nonprofit awards event. He is joined on stage by Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin; Andy Bessette, executive vice president and chief administrative officer of The Travelers Cos.; David Robinson, executive vice president and general counsel, The Hartford; and Floyd Green, vice president and head of the community activation and local marketing (CALM) team, Aetna.

For Aetna, Travelers and The Hartford, donating a combined $10 million to Hartford has helped the Capital City avoid bankruptcy, grow jobs and protect its most vulnerable assets.

Executives from the three major insurers told an audience Wednesday morning at Hartford Business Journal's first annual Community Excellence and Nonprofit Awards they targeted much of their first donation of a five-year, $50 million pledge to the Hartford Public Library due to its vulnerability during the Capital City's fiscal crisis.

The three insurers and the city were honored with the Partnership Award at Wednesday's event at Infinity Hall in Hartford. Executives from the three companies and Bronin also participated in a panel discussion about the donation pledge and its significance to the city.

During the negotiating process, Bronin said the insurers were adamant about covering the costs of services that may have been cut as the city worked to avoid bankruptcy amid the peak of its financial crisis.

"The commitment by the companies to say 'lets focus the money there so that we protect those things that otherwise might be the first to get cut was a real statement about values that are pretty significant," Bronin said.

The CEOs of the three insurance giants in March 2017 penned an opinion piece offering $50 million to Hartford over five years if the city improved its fiscal status. Since then, the city has cut costs and received a major bailout from the state, which has agreed to pay off more than $500 million in city debt over the next few decades.

Andy Bessette, executive vice president and chief administrative officer of The Travelers Cos., said his company made good on the first installment of its promise in June because the city developed a balanced plan of action to reduce certain costs while also making the right investments to help communities citywide.

"All of these things demonstrated the city is moving forward, is engaging in developing a comprehensive and sustainable path forward," said Bessette, who is also a board member of the Capital Region Development Authority. "We felt that this was one way we can really dig in and make sure that we supported the success of the urban core and the region so we can continue to grow jobs, attract and retain talent."

David Robinson, The Hartford's executive vice president and general counsel, said the insurers wanted to make a "large and loud statement" that would encourage other city stakeholders to get involved.

Floyd Green, Aetna's vice president and head of the community activation and local marketing team, called the Hartford library a "critical asset" to students in the region.

"We have faith in the mayor and what we are seeing around our communities," Green said. "It is so important for us to make sure our communities are safe and that our infrastructure is strong."

By offering their support through a major financial contribution, Bronin said the pledge helped remind statewide stakeholders that a healthy business climate is dependent on the strength of Connecticut's largest cities.

The insurance executives, however, also warned that the city must continue to prove its financial stability in order for future payments to be made.

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