HARTFORD, Conn. – Aetna announced Wednesday that it is in negotiations to move its headquarters out of Connecticut's capital, where it has been based for almost two centuries.
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Mark Bertolini, the chief executive of the insurance giant, said Wednesday that the company is in negotiations with several states about moving its corporate base, with the goal of broadening access to innovation and talent that will fill "knowledge economy-type" positions.
"We remain committed to our Connecticut-based employees and the Hartford campus, and hope to have a final resolution by early summer," he said in a statement.
Aetna, the nation's third-largest health insurer, has a workforce of almost 50,000 and employs about 6,000 people in Connecticut. It traces its roots in Hartford to 1819.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Connecticut is working to ensure Aetna will remain a major employer in the state and has offered it incentives "including matching anything put on the table from a competing state in order to keep Aetna's headquarters and jobs here in Connecticut."
Malloy said the state also has promised to bolster workforce development around Aetna's needs, improve transportation in the region "make our state an even better and more responsive marketplace for them and other insurers."
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But the Democratic governor acknowledged the company has not responded to the offer and likely will move its headquarters and some jobs to a major urban center. He said, "Hartford is not ever going to be New York or Boston."
"There is no book about corporate relocation that doesn't make the following point: that where the chief executive wants to be is the most important factor," he said.
Aetna would join General Electric as a longtime Connecticut corporation moving out of the state. GE, which had been based in Fairfield, broke ground on its new corporate headquarters in Boston earlier in May.
Massachusetts lured GE from Connecticut with the help of $120 million in state incentives and $25 million in city property tax relief.
Aetna Fire Insurance Co. started in Hartford in 1819. In 1853, its annuity department was separated from the fire insurer and incorporated as Aetna Life Insurance Co. It opened its current headquarters 1930, touting it at the time as the largest office building in the state.
Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said after meeting with senior company officials he believes Aetna has already made the decision to leave Connecticut and the move is another sign the state needs to do more to bolster its cities.
"We don't have to be New York or Boston to be competitive, but we have to recognize that strong, fiscally sound, culturally vibrant metropolitan areas are key to economic growth," he said.
In February, Aetna called off a $34 billion merger with Humana after a federal judge, citing concerns about prices and benefits, rejected the deal.
The company has announced it will leave the Affordable Care Act's health insurance exchanges for next year after absorbing steep losses. That coverage represents a fraction of the company's overall business, which generated a $2.27 billion in profit last year.
Bertolini has told investors he'd like to extend Aetna's reach deeper into a patient's life to help solve health care problems. He said Aetna ultimately would like to be like Amazon and essentially provide logistics or support to help people figure out what they need to be happy and healthy and to get any chronic conditions under control.
Aetna shares have climbed 21 percent over the past year and closed at $144.86 on Wednesday
Associated Press writer Dave Collins and health writer Tom Murphy contributed to this report