The snow and ice didn’t prevent businesses from opening on Tuesday, and also didn’t stop U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal from visiting several of them to hear concerns.
Blumenthal, a Democrat and former attorney general of Connecticut who succeeded Chris Dodd in the Senate, arrived in New London in the late morning. He stopped in the restaurants , , and before moving on to and .
At Copperwood Grill, owner and former city councilor Bill Cornish said he was most concerned about the high price of electricity and other utilities. The first month’s bill on the restaurant, which opened in November, amounted to $2,000.
“The rates are outrageous. That can sink a business,” said Cornish. “It’s bad for residents but it’s a killer for businesses.”
Richard Caruso, co-owner of Caruso Music, said he employs nine people and is hoping to expand the business with additional focus on professional piano moving and commercial sound systems. These initiatives would require training, however, and Caruso said the business has been unable to receive a loan even though it has been on State Street for 81 years and owns the building.
Caruso said the health care deductibles for the employees have also increased from $500 to $2,500.
“Health care is crazy,” Caruso said. “Every year it goes up another 17 percent.”
Blumenthal said there is a need to address the issue of insurance companies refusing to honor claims. In addition, he said the high cost of health care and lack of individual preventative care such as staying in shape and not smoking has led to price increases.
Blumenthal later met with several community and business leaders at the Thames River Greenery. He said he has been conducting a cross-state “listening tour” and heard that there are similar concerns across Connecticut. On the issue of health care, he said that the government must ensure that savings in health care result in reduced physician costs rather than increased profits for insurance companies.
“I really think about economic development, job growth, as the most important topic today,” said Blumenthal.
Tony Sheridan, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut, said investment in nuclear power as a green energy could lead to increased savings as well as job creation at the Millstone plant in Waterford. Charlotte Hennegan, owner of the Greenery, said she believes New London will be able to use its location at the nexus of several nodes of transportation to its benefit if this infrastructure is improved.
“I believe the growth of those industries will affect our town in a domino effect,” she said.