Why Connecticut has a strong foothold in the Fortune 500

Photo of Paul Schott

The coronavirus pandemic has hammered Connecticut’s economy in the past 15 months. But it has not severed the state’s longstanding ties to some of the country’s largest corporations.

Fourteen of the companies in the new 2021 Fortune 500 list are headquartered in the state, one more than last year. Amid a period of unprecedented disruption and after years of weak jobs growth, the consistency shows that Connecticut has sustained its appeal as a corporate destination. That stability could also help spur an economic recovery as the state forges ahead with business re-openings.

“It’s a positive indicator that we’ve maintained this number of Fortune 500 companies,” Chris DiPentima, CEO and president of the Connecticut Business & Industry Association, said in an interview. “It’s a sign that the larger companies do see positive things in Connecticut like a great workforce, a great education system for their families and a great location.”

Fortune 500 firms across the state

Construction continues on the future headquarters, at 406 Washington Blvd., in downtown Stamford, of Charter Communications. Charter ranked No. 64 on the 2021 Fortune 500 list.

Construction continues on the future headquarters, at 406 Washington Blvd., in downtown Stamford, of Charter Communications. Charter ranked No. 64 on the 2021 Fortune 500 list.

Tyler Sizemore / Hearst Connecticut Media

The 14 Connecticut-based Fortune 500 members provide an important snapshot of the state’s economy — encompassing many of its cornerstone industries such as financial services, insurance, information technology and manufacturing.

They cumulatively account for thousands of jobs across the state and many millions of dollars annually in local and state tax revenues.

Together, they comprise about 3 percent of the Fortune 500 membership. In comparison, Connecticut accounts for 1 percent of the U.S. population.

As a host city, Norwalk leads the state with four Fortune 500 organizations: No. 424-ranked travel-services provider Booking Holdings; No. 344-ranked Emcor Group, which focuses on construction and infrastructure services; No. 402-ranked telecommunications provider Frontier Communications and No. 415-ranked IT firm Xerox Holdings.

“We are so very proud to be the home of four Fortune 500 companies. It reflects well on our city and validates we are a great place to live, work and play,” said Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling. “We have long realized that Norwalk not only has a great geographical location, but we also have a diverse and extremely talented workforce.”

Three Fortune 500 members are headquartered in Stamford: No. 64-ranked telecommunications firm Charter Communications; No. 187-ranked Synchrony, the country’s largest private-label credit card provider; and No. 352-ranked United Rentals, the world’s largest equipment-rental company.

“We are fortunate to have great companies like Charter, Synchrony and United Rentals headquartered in Stamford, providing thousands of jobs for our residents and revenue for our city and state,” said state Rep. Caroline Simmons, D-Stamford, co-chairwoman of the state legislature’s Commerce Committee. She is running for the Democratic nomination for mayor in this year’s municipal election.

Stamford Mayor David Martin, a Democrat running for a third term, cited Charter’s contributions to the city’s “cluster” of digital media companies.

“We have made Stamford a wonderful city for businesses and more are coming. We are attracting a diverse mix, both large and small, of companies in several important business clusters,” Martin said. “A strong critical mass in a business cluster attracts more similar businesses to Stamford and results in better job opportunities for our residents.”

Bobby Valentine, the former New York Mets manager who is running as an unaffiliated mayoral candidate, cited Fortune 500 companies’ contributions to local employment levels and community partnerships.

“The companies help bring new and exciting residents to Stamford and provide such value that I think it’s worth taking a look at why they choose to be here and why some leave. We should include in that examination Stamford’s small businesses,” Valentine said. “We also have to ensure that large companies adequately contribute to the costs of added infrastructure stresses, including road repairs, refuse disposal and water and sewer systems.”

Greenwich is home to No. 190-ranked transportation-and-logistics provider XPO Logistics and No. 372-ranked insurer W.R. Berkley.

No other city or town in the state has more than one Fortune 500 headquarters.

None of this year’s Fortune 500 companies are headquartered in Bridgeport or New Haven, which were the state’s two most-populous cities, according to the most recently available Census Bureau data, from 2019.

Messages left for Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim and New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker were not immediately returned.

Many changes

Greenwich-based W.R. Berkley ranked No. 372 on the 2021 Fortune 500 list.

Greenwich-based W.R. Berkley ranked No. 372 on the 2021 Fortune 500 list.

Tyler Sizemore / Hearst Connecticut Media

In the wake of its 2008-2010 recession, Connecticut has struggled in the past decade to recover. By January 2020, it had recouped only 83 percent of the jobs lost in the previous downturn.

More Information

The following 14 Connecticut-headquartered companies made the 2021 Fortune 500 list. Companies are ranked based on their revenues in the past fiscal year.

No. 13: Cigna; $160,401 (annual revenues in millions); Bloomfield (headquarters location)

No. 64: Charter Communications; $48,097; Stamford

No. 142: Hartford Financial Services Group (The Hartford); $20,523; Hartford

No. 187: Synchrony; $16,472; Stamford

No. 190: XPO Logistics; $16,252; Greenwich

No. 209: Stanley Black & Decker; $14,535; New Britain

No. 236: Otis Worldwide; $12,756; Farmington

No. 344: Emcor Group; $8,797; Norwalk

No. 349: Amphenol, $8,599; Wallingford

No. 352: United Rentals; $8,530; Stamford

No. 372: W.R. Berkley; $8,099; Greenwich

No. 402: Frontier Communications; $7,155; Norwalk

No. 415: Xerox Holdings; $7,022; Norwalk

No. 424: Booking Holdings; $6,796; Norwalk

Source: Fortune

Despite the underwhelming recovery, Connecticut’s largest companies have mostly kept faith in their home state.

This year, Connecticut has as many Fortune 500 headquarters as it did in 2012: Seven of those 2012 entries made the list again this year and still have their main offices in the state: insurer Cigna, Emcor, Frontier, insurer The Hartford, tools manufacturer Stanley Black & Decker, W.R. Berkley and Xerox.

But there was a conspicuous departure: In 2016, General Electric relocated its headquarters from Fairfield to Boston. That year, GE ranked No. 11 in the Fortune 500.

While the loss of GE dented the state’s reputation as a corporate hub, Connecticut has largely offset the economic damage of that exit through the growth in recent years of companies such as Charter and Synchrony — which was spun off from GE in 2014 — as well as others such as XPO, Booking, United Rentals and electronics manufacturer Amphenol.

“I think that flat trend line in the number of Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Connecticut can be viewed as a good thing,” DiPentima said. “The state has had a really tough 10 years since that 2008-2010 recession and really lagged the country in a lot of economic indicators. Yet we were fortunate enough to hold on to most of our bigger companies.”

Mergers and acquisitions have also shaped the composition of Connecticut’s Fortune 500 lineup.

Hartford-based insurer Aetna was acquired in 2018 by Woonsocket, R.I.-based CVS Health. Stamford-based Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide was bought in 2016 by Bethesda, Md.-based Marriott International. Danbury-based industrial-gas firm Praxair merged in 2018 with Linde, which is now headquartered in Guildford, England. Farmington-based industrial giant United Technologies merged last year with the Waltham, Mass.-based Raytheon, with Waltham serving as the headquarters for the combined company.

But those companies’ in-state influence has hardly dissipated. The Farmington-based elevator-and-escalator firm Otis Worldwide, ranked No. 236 on this year’s list, was spun off last year from United Technologies.

The other Connecticut-based Fortune 500 members from 2012, shipping-and-mailing specialist Pitney Bowes and Terex, a manufacturer of lifting and material-processing products, are still based in the state. Their main offices are, respectively, in Stamford and Norwalk.

Pitney’s and Terex’s revenues were not large enough to make this year’s top 500, but they, respectively, ranked No. 664 and No. 735 on the broader Fortune 1,000 list.

Looking ahead

New Britain-based Stanley Black & Decker ranked No. 209 on the 2021 Fortune 500 list.

New Britain-based Stanley Black & Decker ranked No. 209 on the 2021 Fortune 500 list.

Danny Johnston / AP

Given that Connecticut’s representation in the Fortune 500 held steady in the first year of the pandemic, the size of the contingent probably will not change dramatically next year.

As Connecticut pushes ahead with its economic re-opening, many elected officials and executives are bullish about its ability to recruit and retain major companies. In Stamford, Charter Communications has signaled its commitment by building a new headquarters, next to the downtown Metro-North Railroad station.

Earlier this spring, however, the state faced the prospect of losing of one of its Fortune 500 headquarters when The Hartford received several acquisition bids from another insurer, Chubb. The Hartford rejected all of those offers, prompting Chubb in late April to call off its pursuit.

Chubb’s failed acquisition relieved many elected officials, who were concerned that a takeover might have led to job cuts. The No. 142-ranked The Hartford employs about 6,100 statewide.

“It is one of our flagship corporations, and it employs an awful lot of folks,” state Sen. Matt Lesser, D-Middletown, co-chairman of the state legislature’s Insurance and Real Estate Committee, said in a recent interview. “It would be hard to overstate its significance to our regional economy.”

At the same time, Connecticut is well-positioned to potentially recruit big companies from neighboring states, according to DiPentima.

“If we’re able to hold the line on taxes this year, with New York and potentially Massachusetts increasing their tax structure, it just makes us more competitive,” DiPentima said. “We see it as a huge opportunity — not only to get residents into Connecticut — but to also get businesses into Connecticut and certainly get some more Fortune 500 businesses into Connecticut.”

pschott@stamfordadvocate.com; twitter: @paulschott