Mickey Herbert, president of the Bridgeport Regional Business Council, enjoys an entrepreneurial spirit that he’s put into words and action, be it health care or sports entertainment. In his latest Mickey’s Mail eblast to his business community constituency, he muses about the potential of Amazon HQ2 and MGM’s proposal to build a waterfront gaming enterprise, as well as other developments in the city.
As I sit at my pc on a much-needed rainy Sunday morning, I want to share my personal thoughts about the possibility of our region gaining a second Amazon headquarters (HQ2) or a major MGM casino development (MGM Bridgeport). I do this in part because many of you have asked me about HQ2 and MGM Bridgeport, and I have thought a lot about them.
Most of you know that even though I have only been the BRBC CEO about one year now, I have sat on the BRBC board since the late ’80s in different capacities (three health plans, the Bluefish, and my own tiny consulting firm). I remember vividly the impassioned debate our board had over 20 years ago about casinos coming to Bridgeport, and I am acutely aware of many grandiose projects our board discussed over the DECADES that never came to fruition.
Full disclosure: I voted in 1995 in support of Bridgeport gaining two casinos, in an 18-17 affirmative vote that really split our board in two. I remember my predecessor, Paul Timpanelli, telling me he had Steve Wynn on speed dial on his cell phone. And, of course, the ballpark and arena at Harbor Yard were constructed on land Donald Trump sold to the city for $1 (and property tax forgiveness) when the state legislature would not authorize any casinos for Bridgeport, even the tribal casinos that were originally approved in eastern Connecticut.
So, fast forward to today and much has changed. There is far more residential property, either completed and occupied or under construction, in downtown Bridgeport. Bridgeport Landing Development has brought us Bass Pro Shops, some retail outlets, a dockmaster building with a restaurant and boardwalk under construction, and we’re very close to opening a new comedy club and beer hall right next to McLevy Green. And we even have the prospect for the renovation of the Majestic and Poli theaters in “downtown north” with the three accompanying office towers. The south and west ends of the city now have a vibrant eco-technology park, and PSEG has a massive oil-to-gas energy conversion project underway at its plant. There’s lots more, happening too, but suffice it to say that Bridgeport is a city on the move.
However, what I would like to see most of all is a major shot in the arm that would give us all the feeling that we are over the hump, that there is once again a feeling of “Bridgeport Envy” that existed in Hartford in the late ’90s after Housatonic Community College relocated to downtown, the Connecticut police barracks took over the Sears Auto tire site, and both the ballpark and the arena opened or began construction. That Bridgeport would become a destination center for tourists from all over the heavily populated northeast. Our waterfront could realize its enormous potential and the huge tracts of valuable land that exist at Lake Success (Bridgeport and Stratford) and the Army Engine Plant (Stratford) could attract first-class tenants. I am older than most of you reading this, and I’d love nothing more than to see our region really take off IN MY LIFETIME. I’ve been here 40 years, and not to be too biblical, but it really is time that we stop wandering in the wilderness eating quail and manna!
I support our region’s HQ2 application with Mayors Joe Ganim and Toni Harp working in concert with stakeholders all over eastern Fairfield and all New Haven County to produce a high-quality proposal to Amazon. BRBC’s EVP, Karen DelVecchio and BEDCO’s CEO, Ed Lavernoich along with team of people from Bridgeport and New Haven are working together to make our application the best proposal possible. To me, the “win” here is that we are collaborating with key entities in both counties, working together to attract the next big company that might come here, even if Amazon declines.
As for MGM Bridgeport, I think I know all the arguments for and against casino gaming, but let me say this: we have a Fortune 300 company prepared to make an enormous investment right here in both Bridgeport and New Haven, on an already-permitted, shovel-ready site on our waterfront. MGM’s CEO, Jim Murren, was born and raised right here, attended college here in Connecticut, and still has family residing in Bridgeport. When he says that his two highest priority future development projects are Bridgeport AND TOKYO, you better believe that MGM Bridgeport would give our region the very shot in the arm I’m talking about.
I played a small role in getting MGM and RCI Marine together, and I am very proud of that. And, MGM is NOT planning a development like the Atlantic City developments of decades ago. We are talking about way more than a big box casino here. We’re talking about jobs, tax revenue, restaurants, more boardwalk development, and true community involvement and support for our entire region.
That’s my two cents. Disagree with me if you like. But before you do, think of this quote from Robert F. Kennedy: “Some men see things as they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not.”
Why not the biggest and best for Bridgeport?
MGM is the gambling industry’s equivalent of Walmart or Target. Everything will be spiffy on the boardwalk but the rest of the city will remain in socioeconomic pergatory. MGM erects self-contained complexes, everything under one roof: a casino; restaurants; a hotel; a theater for live performances, etc. The money will only be spread around to the organized criminals that provide prostitutes and high-interest loans.
A beer hall and a comedy club and rehabilitated theaters will draw some people but many others will stay away. Bridgeport has credibility and image problems.
I think that you have been listening to too much satellite radio.
There will be no “trickle down” economic impact, no patronage of local businesses. Sure, MGM has said the company will throw around some money to Bridgeport and the surrounding communities. Where’s that money going to be spent?
No contractual agreements have been signed. Neither City Hall, notorious for not doing anything to improve the quality of life on the mean streets, nor MGM Resorts has not offered any concrete guarantees the financial windfall will benefit the people of the city of Bridgeport.
None if that matters to some. “Oh great, a casino and hotel will make Bridgeport look so much better from the highway…” Rah rah sis boom bah. No one is talking about the urban decay, the crumbling neighborhoods and abandoned factories and absentee corporate polluters and the local retail economy’s reliance on EBT/WIC, the FUBAR public school system, the drug-related violence… Right, a casino will make everyone forget about all that.
Well the people living with those problems day after day after day have had enough. MGM is cynically marketing a flashy glittering image if itself and the uneducated masses are buying it. When all is said and done little of the millions of promised dollars will improve the quality of life for people living on the bottom of the economic food chain. “Will the cycle be unbroken by and by Lord, by and by…”
The economy is robust only when EVERYONE is doing well, not just the swells in bed with the mayor and his cronies.
True Kid, but so long as what is on paper translates into real and good, MGM could play a piece in helping Bridgeport help itself.
Getting a new Mayor who wants to be Mayor and a proactive, fiscally responsible city counsel will help improve Bridgeport’s credibility and image.
All of that is true. The sad fact of life in Bridgeport is, we haven’t had mayor that gives a damn nor a City Council that is fiscally responsible. The motorists on I-95 see clusters of abandoned factories and rundown neighborhoods. The Connecticut news media reports every single shooting and murder, every drug bust, every act of political chicanery.
I am somewhat encouraged that Jim Murren, MGM’s CEO, was birn and raised here in Bridgeport.
The RFK quote is taken out if context. Mr. Kennedy was referring to equality for all under the kaw, not making a gambling mecca out kf a faded industrial city.
Thank you Mickey Herbert!
Rah rah, sis-boom-bah. Shake your pom poms Steve. Show us what you’ve got.
Thank you Mr. Mickey Herbert
Mr Derek Brown- I am going to start a Go Fund me page for your Mental illness and attempt to antagonize me- Rah rah sis boom bah Go Fund Me Derek Ha Ha Ha !
Oh ow, I’m soooooooooo upset by your childish tyrade.
For your information it has been okay to use my name ever since I started posting here. It isn’t as if you “outted” me.
By the way, how’s the lock on your closet door?
Derek Brown- I didn’t have to out you-I know that everyone on this blog knows you. There has never been a lock on my clset door Derek. And I never go out of my way to provoke you .
What I would say is that you are a fine writer. But, for a person that doesn’t pay any city taxes or state taxes – I find it amazing how outspoken you are to stop 7000 jobs , construction and a change in the City ‘s Skyline. You abolutely no investment in this city and you are the most vocally critical of any attempt to improve it.
The way you assault Mayor Ganim without any thought of his family reading your dramatic , redundant criticism of Ganims past is sad. The fact that everytime you bring up Ganims conviction you are also talking about Lennie Grimaldi , your host, is very strange to me.
You have to know that I do enjoy reding your posts. But I do not respect anyone that goes out of their way to insult me because I support all positive things Bridgeport. Living in Bridgeport was a choice not a life sentence and when people who contribute nothing to the well being of this city continually rip it apart like yourself, after a while It is as tiresome as an optimistic cheerleader.
How would you know that I don’t pay city or state taxes? i don’t own any property but that diesn’t mean I don’t pay taxes. (Every time I make a taxable purchase in Bridgport a portion of the 6.35% sakes tax goes to the city.) Nor does it disqualify my opinions on the state if affairs in Bridgeport. I participate in our democratic society by voting and exercusing my First Amendment rights. So I don’t own land. BIG FUCKING DEAL. Sue me.
I’ve been to Atlantic City, New Jersey. The casino operators came into town like carpetbaggers, promising to revitalize the entire city. But once the contracts were signed they were only concerned with the gamblers and tourists from East New Bumfuck that came to play the slots, ogle the Miss America contestants and marvel atthe artificial paradise. The test of Atlantic City looks like Dresden, Germany, in 1945 after the allies bombed the shit out of it.
Bridgeport has many many ills that have gone untreated for decades, neglected by corrupt mayors and administrations that cared more for extra income and privilege than the people of the city of Bridgeport. (C’mon Joe, tell us about the Four Seasons Hotel and the cases of expensive French wine and all that cash…)
Grinding poverty, substandard public schools, a complacent City Council, high taxes, drugs, violence, murder, inadequate health care, high unemployment, street gangs… A casino and an amphitheater will not make those problems go away. In many ways a ritzy gambling palace will cause socioeconomic resentment. But it’s okay. City Hall wants to build a casino on the waterfront and that will make it all better.
These problems need to be addressed sooner rather than later. Time after time the city’s elected officials, including the legislative delegation, have passed on opportunities to address all of these socioeconomic ills in the great New England tradition of “Don’t talk about that!” As if willful ignorance will make it all go away.
The chickens have come home to roost. More than a few of the people of the city if Bridgeport are right well fed up with the city’s tarnished reputation and the corrupt machine politics that have prevented real progress from taking place.
Only In Bridgeport is a public forum, not “Sesame Street” or “Sing Along With Mitch.” It is patently absurd to suggest I cease my criticisms of Joe Ganim simply because his children may be reading.
My outspoken defense of the people of the city of Bridgeport must be making a difference or you wouldn’t be so critical. You have attacked me personally when I didn’t agree with the DTC line on development.
I’m on a fixed income, do not own real estate or an automobile. To suggest I am not invested in the community is ignorant. I’m here on this blog voicing my opinions on all things Bridgeport. I teach music part time, host two open mic nights in Black Rock. I invest my time, talent and articulation to make my community a better place. You know little about me save for the outdated information you have picked up second- and third-hand.
I’d hire you Derek Brown. I find you to be articulate and intelligent. I do not appreciate your personal insults that come out of nowhere. I could care less if you own property in the city. I do not judge people on their financial situation in life and my friends run the spectrum. I envy nobody and appreciate everyone . Now maybe on this forum you can appreciate those of us that want to be hopeful and I will respect your doom and gloom , negative dark cloud you cast over the city and sucking the air out of the room. I will remain a loner and a light in an otherwise dark and miserable place.
Oh come on, Steven. Stop it with the martyrdom routine. You’re not Joan of Ark. You don’t have the legs for it.
When it comes to a place for Amazon’s HQ2, only 1 can be the best and that’s why I’m nominating Bridgeport as that place and using the internet to punctuate my point. http://www.Only1CanBeTheBest.com
Anazon HQ2 will be a good fit for Bridgeport. The company many jobs to town, skilled and unskilled with opportunities for advancement within the company.
The casino is a nonstarter. The Mohegan and Mashantuckett Pequot tribs will not allow it.
You heard it here first, Amazon is going to St. Louis, MO.
Bridgeport was never in the running for Amazon HQ2. City hall blew it by making a big splash, as if it was a one deal. Bill Finch’s administration made a similar blunder. When a chain restaurant expressed interest in the Black Rock Bank & Trust building at Fairfield Avenue and Brewster Street Finch and his country club pals presented it as a fait accompli. End of interested party.
Mickey Herbert can misquote Robert F. Kenndey all he wants. Joe Ganim and Toni Harp can hold press conferences until laryngitis sets in. It ain’t gonna happen here. Not with the political corruption endemic to Bridgeport. Bezos knows better.
One Question… Does Mickey Herbert live in Bridgeport?
Mickey Herbert lives in the BRBC dormitory.