Orange County Partnership - News

When Politics and Real Estate Collide

While corporate real estate executives frequently interact with elected officials in order to secure municipal approvals or incentives for new building projects, sometimes controversial legislation can lead to acrimony on both sides and later possible workforce and operational decisions.


Recently, reproductive rights laws and New York City’s controversial congestion pricing plan have caused a firestorm of controversy. In the case of newly enacted abortion restrictions in Indiana, two major employers, pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly and Company and engine manufacturing firm Cummins, both criticized the new law.


According to a Reuters report, Eli Lilly, which employs 10,000 in the State of Indiana, released a statement threatening that it would grow its operations elsewhere. Eli Lilly, which has been headquartered in Indianapolis for 145 years, said in a statement earlier this month that it recognizes abortion as a “divisive and deeply personal issue with no clear consensus among the citizens of Indiana.”


“Despite this lack of agreement, Indiana has opted to quickly adopt one of the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in the United States,” Eli Lilly said. “We are concerned that this law will hinder Lilly’s—and Indiana’s—ability to attract diverse scientific, engineering and business talent from around the world. Given this new law, we will be forced to plan for more employment growth outside our home state.”


Cummins, which also employs about 10,000 people in Indiana and is headquartered in Columbus, also implied the new law could affect its operational decisions going forward.


“The right to make decisions regarding reproductive health ensures that women have the same opportunity as others to participate fully in our workforce and that our workforce is diverse,” a company spokesman said in a statement.


“There are provisions in the law that conflict with this, impact our people, impede our ability to attract and retain top talent and influence our decisions as we continue to grow our footprint with a focus on selecting welcoming and inclusive environments,” the Cummins spokesman said.


Looking to take advantage of the discord in Indiana and elsewhere is the State of Connecticut. Back on July 1, after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont sent out an open letter to businesses in states that are restricting the ability of women to make their own healthcare decisions, encouraging them to relocate their companies to Connecticut.


“We are writing to any business owner that is disappointed in the stance of their current state. If you are looking to relocate to a state that supports the rights of women and whose actions and laws are unwavering in support of tolerance and inclusivity, Connecticut is for you. Connecticut has a record of providing equal opportunity to all people and one of the strongest records when it comes to protecting reproductive rights,” Gov. Lamont wrote.


“Protection of women’s healthcare choices is one reason to do business in Connecticut, but there are a host of other reasons. We’re the most family-friendly state in America with access to the best childcare you can find anywhere and a paid family medical leave program that provides necessary time for workers to care for loved ones. Connecticut businesses can count on a pro-growth environment, tax stability, and strong fiscal management. We’re even providing the biggest tax cut in state history,” Gov. Lamont stated in the letter.


He added, “We know the prospect of leaving a state you’ve called home is difficult, but on behalf of the State of Connecticut, we want to assure you that we can make our small corner of New England feel like home very quickly.”


The next political controversy is much closer to home—the MTA’s congestion pricing plan, which if approved as proposed, would charge commuters peak tolls to enter Manhattan’s Central Business District ranging from $9 to as high as $23.


Rockland County politicos, including State Assemblyman Michael Lawler and County Executive Ed Day blasted the plan. Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus also was critical of the plan released on Aug. 10, saying: “Congestion pricing is discriminatory to residents of West of Hudson counties in New York, whom do not have one seat access to Manhattan. The MTA needs to make it more affordable and reliable for Orange County residents to take a train, which is their actual business, into New York City, not tax our cars.”


However, New Jersey politicos went a step further, lambasting the proposal but also making a pitch to companies to relocate to New Jersey in reaction to congestion pricing. reported earlier this month that a number of New Jersey elected officials are proposing a bill that would offer incentives to New York companies to relocate across the Hudson in reaction to the MTA’s congestion pricing plan.


Seizing on a “Stay in Jersey” campaign, launched by U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-5th Dist., in May, State Senator Joe Lagana, and Assemblymembers Chris Tully and Lisa Swain, D-Bergen, announced plans to introduce a bill to provide $15 million in tax credits to encourage Manhattan businesses to open satellite offices in the Garden State.


The bill would establish the tax credit program through the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. “New Jersey residents should not be targeted and should not pay for the fare policy of NYC,” said Assemblyman Tully. “It’s not only good for business it’s great for commuters. You go to work, do your job, and come home. This incentive is tied to real saving for commuters.”