Aetna Inc. said Wednesday it is in negotiations with several states to move its corporate headquarters out of Connecticut, dealing a blow to a state that is struggling with a widening budget deficit, stagnant population growth and rising unemployment.
The company said its goal was to broaden access to innovation and talent.
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"We remain committed to our Connecticut-based employees and the Hartford campus, and hope to have a final resolution by early summer," an Aetna spokesman said.
Connecticut, facing a $5.1 billion deficit over the next two fiscal years, has struggled to rehabilitate its image as a business-friendly state following last year's departure of General Electric Co. GE, which moved to Boston after decades in Fairfield, has said the decision was fueled by proximity to Boston-area universities and their graduates.
"Across the country, companies are locating in places where they can recruit top talent," Hartfod Mayor Luke Bronin said in a statement. "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. "
Aetna's departure is also a major setback for the city of Hartford, a community of about 125,000 residents that is also struggling with a fiscal crisis. Earlier this month the city began soliciting attorneys in case it had to file for bankruptcy protection.
"Losing Aetna's flag is a hard blow for the state and for the greater Hartford region," said Mr. Bronin. He said Aetna's senior leadership indicated in multiple conversations that the company had decided some time ago to move out of Connecticut.
Mr. Bronin said the insurer would continue to keep thousands of employees at its current campus in Hartford. The company has about 6,000 employees in Connecticut.
While Hartford has struggled financially, it remains the center of the state's insurance industry. The city is also home to Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. and Travelers Cos.
Aetna, Hartford Financial and Travelers -- Hartford's biggest employers -- said in March they would collectively give the city $10 million annually over the next five years to help avoid bankruptcy.
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
May 31, 2017 15:02 ET (19:02 GMT)