Shelton’s three state legislators are expressing concern about possible changes at Sikorsky Aircraft, one of the region’s biggest employers.
Parent company United Technologies Corp. (UTC) has announced it is considering “strategic alternatives” for its Sikorsky Aircraft business, which could include a spin-off or even sale of the helicopter manufacturing company.
More than 800 Shelton residents work for Sikorsky, mostly at its 254-acre plant on Route 110 in Stratford, which is on the Shelton border and is perhaps the region’s largest employer. Sikorsky also has a a few smaller facilities in Shelton.
In fact, according to figures released by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s office last year, UTC has more employees from Shelton than from any other town in this area — including Stratford.
‘Many questions need to be answered’
“I am cautiously hopeful, but I do think we all have many questions that need to be answered first,” said state Sen. Kevin Kelly, whose district includes all of Shelton and most of Stratford.
“If Sikorsky were to separate from UTC and become a stand-alone company, I hope they would continue in their long history of innovation and advancement, and I hope they would remain loyal to the community that has always welcomed them and enabled the company to flourish,” said Kelly, who lives in Stratford.
State Rep. Jason Perillo of Shelton said he was “proud to support the Aerospace Reinvestment Act last year, which played a major role in strengthening Sikorsky Aircraft.
“It will be essential that any changes implemented by UTC with regard to Sikorsky continue within the boundaries of the investment bill we passed and that those changes ensure the continued employment of the skilled employees currently working for Sikorsky,” Perillo said.
State Rep. Ben McGorty of Shelton, whose district includes a part of Stratford, said he was concerned “about what form these potential [company] alternatives may take, and will be joining with [his] colleagues in working with state officials and UTC to see that whatever actions are taken are in harmony with the terms of the Aerospace Reinvestment Act, and preserve [Sikorsky] jobs.”
Mayor Mark Lauretti said Sikorsky has been downsizing for years, due to military spending reductions since the end of the Cold War and the state’s high taxes.
“This is nothing new,” Lauretti said. “They’ve been moving out slowly.”
When he was Barnum Festival ringmaster in 2008, Lauretti remembers then Sikorsky President Jeff Pino commenting on the company’s need to be less reliant on the U.S. defense budget.
But Lauretti doesn’t expect the company to just close up shop and head elsewhere. “They have too much infrastructure here to just leave,” he said, noting this includes many highly skilled employees.
Stratford Mayor John Harkins said he’s received assurance by Sikorsky Aircraft officials that the company will stay in Stratford.
“Regardless of any potential changes in the ownership structure now being considered, my administration has been assured by Sikorsky leadership that the company will remain in Stratford,” Harkins said.
Harkins said a spin-off would likely create more jobs because Sikorsky would need to replace its support from UTC. Sikorsky invested $6.7 million on infrastructure in 2014 and has invested $2.9 million so far this year, the Stratford mayor said.
Sikorsky has about 8,000 employees throughout Connecticut, working in four facilities. About 6,200 employees work in the 254-acre Stratford facility. Globally, Sikorsky employs approximately 15,300 people.
Differences with UTC companies
Paul Jackson, a Sikorsky spokesman, said Sikorsky’s direct customer relationship with the end user makes the company different from others in UTC.
“Sikorsky integrates systems and provides the final product to the customer,” Jackson said. “The rest of UTC businesses are systems providers.
“Sikorsky looks at investments and business strategies differently, often over a much longer time period and with different financial return expectations than other UTC businesses,” he said. “These differences have led UTC to review whether Sikorsky is better positioned as a stand-alone company.”
The review process should conclude before the end of the year, Jackson said, but no specific timetable has been set for a decision. “We fully anticipate continuation of a major presence in Stratford and Connecticut,” he said.
UTC reached an agreement with state officials last year guaranteeing that Sikorsky would stay in the state for five years. As part of the deal, UTC committed to investing $500 million in Connecticut in return for up to $400 million in state tax credits.
Jackson said the corporation’s study of “strategic alternatives” does not have any impact on the UTC-state agreement.
“Irrespective of the outcome of the strategic review, UTC fully intends to meet all of its commitments related to the [Connecticut] Aerospace Reinvestment Act,” he said.
Shelton Herald Editor Brad Durrell and Stratford Star Editor Melvin Mason contributed to this article.