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WorkinCT: Stanley Black and Decker CEO weighs in on state economy and global trade

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NEW BRITAIN --   With 2,000 employees and two major manufacturing locations here in Connecticut, Stanley Black and Decker has made a commitment to this state for more than a century.

“I think it’s an incredible accomplishment that a company like this could be in existence for 175 years,” said Jim Loree, President and CEO of Stanley Black and Decker.

Loree knows that keeping the business thriving can be challenging in today’s economy, especially in Connecticut, a state that has had its share of fiscal issues.

“We haven’t had any economic growth in Connecticut since the Great Recession in 08 and 09, and without growth, it’s hard to create jobs, hard to create all the services we need to help the folks that are needy and so forth in the state,” he said.

He said Connecticut needs two things. It needs to be competitive and it needs fiscal stability and those things go hand in hand.

“As far as competitiveness, I think it requires a public-private partnership. We have seen I think a turning point in this state. For years and years and years, business was off by itself, really not paying attention to government and government wasn’t paying attention to business, in my opinion. I think within the last year or two with Governor Malloy and Catherine Smith over at the Economic Development Department, I think they’ve made tremendous headway,” said Loree.

That’s why Stanley Black and Decker has expanded its commitment to Connecticut, specifically Hartford, by opening up an advanced manufacturing center to attract young talent to the city.

“We can start to create the momentum to create this feeling that Hartford is actually turning around,” said Loree.

FOX 61 also asked Loree about staying competitive in the world’s economy amid the Trump administration levying tariffs on countries like China. He said the objective of fair trade is admirable, but the way of getting there is problematic.

“When we, the United States, impose say a 20 percent tariff on something that we sell to American citizens, we have to raise the prices, there’s no alternative,” said Loree.

Since many power tools companies rely on China, he said the new push will be to make where you sell.

“We’ve been on that track now for three or four years, so bringing a lot of production back into the U.S. and Europe from China. We just opened up a plant in Great Britain for the first time in 50+ years, and we’re opening new plants here in the United States,” he said.

That’s what he said Stanley Black and Decker is doing with its $900 million dollar investment in Craftsman, a brand that’s products had decreased in quality over time.

“So the vast majority of those Craftsman products were made in China, and when we bought the brand, we redesigned over a thousand different products and brought the quality up and all that plant expansion I talked about is being really focused on U.S. manufacturing. We’ll start, we’ll be about 40 percent of the new Craftsman products will be made in the United States. Within a couple of years, it will be about 80 percent,” said Loree.

Loree said he sees that as a nationalistic trend that’s going on around the world.

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