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January 11, 2024 30 mins
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Welcome the Pulse of the Region,brought to you by the Metro Hertford Alliance.
The Metro Hertford Alliance collaborates with investorsand partners to elevate the Hartford region
through economic development work, convening thecommunity around shared challenges, and providing local
chamber support. Learn more about theirmission and how to get involved at Metrohartford
dot com. Pulse of the Regionis produced in partnership with OKILL. Originally

founded as a school for the blindin eighteen ninety three, Okkill has provided
holistic, person centered services for individualswith disabilities for over one hundred and thirty
years. With empowerment and independence asits guiding principles. Okkill works in partnership
with the individuals it serves to provideresidential education and enrichment opportunities. Learn more
at OKKILLCT dot org. Now here'syour host for Pulse of the Region,

Kate Balman. Hello, and welcometo Pulse of the Region, the show
where we highlight all of the greatthings happening here throughout the Hartford Region.
I'm your host, Kate Bauman heretoday in the lovely iHeartMedia Studios, the
building I love to call the CandyCane Building here in our capital city of
Hartford. Today we are getting thepulse about the Metro Heartford Alliance. If
you've listened before, you know thisshow is hosted by the Metro Heartford Alliance

aka the MHA, and today wewant to pull back the curtain a little
bit to highlight who we are asan organization and what we're doing for the
Hertford region and also for our capitalcity of Hertford. To do just that,
we have two guests in the show. They're here with their smiling faces
looking back at me here in thestudio. I love it when I'm not
alone in here. So first wouldlove to introduce our president and CEO of

the Metro Heartford Alliance who's been aregular on the show. But we welcome
David Greggs. So David, sohappy to have you here today. Good
to be Erck. Fantastic. Andnext is the executive Vice President and General
Consul at the Hertford I would sayduring his day job and his other times
around the job is he serves onour MAHA Board of Directors and also has
been a past chair for the MetroHeartford Alliance. So we warmly welcome David

Robinson. Thanks Kate, thanks forhaving me. Looking forward to the conversation.
Of course too, it's like teamDavid's that's right. So I'm just
gonna start pointing instead of I'll sayDavid and then just point. We'll see
who goes. So fantastic to kickthings off. You know, I'm sure
many of our listeners are familiar withthe metrohart Ford Alliance, but David Griggs,
I think always a great way kindof just to give a reintroduction and
a reminder to everyone, you know, is who is the MHA. Sure.

So from a historical perspective, MAHAwas created around the year two thousand
by taking the heart Ford Chamber ofCommerce and the Regional Growth Council and pulling
them together to share a lot ofthe opportunities of it kindomies a scale around
the back office operations of the two, but over time we gradually became more

of a regional Chamber of Commerce,which, while it is a great thing,
wasn't really what the intention was.In twenty eighteen, the board made
a decision to kind of pull thosethose things back apart, brought me in
and since then we've been running whatis effectively a Regional Growth Council and Metrohartford

Alliance and our initiatives along with verydistinctly the Hertford Chamber of Commerce. We
reset bylaws, we created a newboard, we gave it a lot more
autonomy to do the kinds of thingsthat you're seeing happen now in the City
of Hertford around the development of Hertford. So, I mean, that's a

very long way to say who weare, but that's effectively what we do,
and it's all aimed at increasing jobs, bringing in more talent and attracting
more capital to our city in ourregion. Fantastic And you mentioned in their
initiatives, and if you don't mindhighlighting, there's four main pillars of the
MHA, if you could touch onthose briefly and then we'll dive deeper on

those later on the conversation. So, as I already mentioned, there's the
Hertford Chamber of Commerce, which isvery focused on the small business community within
the City of Hertford. Every oneof our surrounding towns and municipalities they all
have a Chamber of Commerce, butHartford effectively had been without a Chamber of
Commerce for a number of years.With the guidance of Max Kathari, who

is the board president, and JulioConceptionion, who is the executive director of
the Chamber, we've been able todo some really really cool things, the
Heartlift Program being one of them.The Heartlift Program is a program that we
designed in conjunction with the City ofHertford to bring life back to the street

level experience in the city of Hartford. I think you'll see it most dramatically
on Pratt Street where we now haveactivity on both the north and south sides.
We've got sixty three new restaurants andretail establishments that are being created in
the City of Hertford through this programand more to come. So the Hertford

Chamber of Commerce I think is extremelyeffective in doing what it was recreated to
do. The other initiatives that we'vegot, we've got the CTIFS, which
is the Connecticut Insurance and Financial Servicessector work with that. You know,
we've had to rethink our strategies fromtwenty eighteen to a post COVID reality and

where we are today and the thingsthat we're doing with the CTIFS to bring
new insurance companies into our region.You know, our effective unemployment rate in
the sector that where we would putinsurance employees is about one percent, so
we don't have an awful lot ofpeople to be able to use to attract

big new developments in the insurance industries. However, as we look to foreign
direct investments, so companies that arecurrently overseas that want to get into the
US marketplace, typically what they dois they come in with a smaller operation,
they bring any of their own people. So what we've done with the
cti FS is we've signed the firstof its kind agreement between essentially Hartford and

the Hertford Region and the United Kingdom. So the UK government we've got this
unique arrangement where all of their insuretech companies when they look to the US
marketplace, they come here to Hertfordof what we are, because of who
we are, because we are theleader in the United States for insurance.
So if you're overseas and you're lookingto get into the US marketplace, there

is no better place than Hartford todo it. And by landing as many
of these small companies as we can, we know that not all of them
are going to grow. Some ofthem may fail but we only need one
or two unicorns in that group tobecome the next name on a building here
in Hertford, and by bringing inas many of these as we can,

we increase our opportunities. So we'vebeen very busy on that. We announced
three new company We had the Britishshe is the Ema Les Smith, his
Majesty's Trade Commissioner. Because I've beentrying to pitch for a new title day
it at work. I don't knowif there's anything in with His Majesty we
can add an yeah, like royaltytitles are fabulous, we should do it.

So yes. So the Trade Ministerwas here announced three more companies that
are coming here to heart Definitely.I want to pick your rain and talk
more about that in the show.Definitely big announcement. And this is a
thing that we can rinse and repeat. It is not only a UK government
deal, like we can rinse andrepeat with Ireland, with India, with
you, Israel, you name thecountry, we can do this. We

are the insurance capital of the worldand the world is starting to take notice
of that. So that's what we'redoing. On the IFS. We have
the Connecticut Health Council We've got newleadership there, all designed on making the
jobs and the opportunities that are availablein the healthcare industries. The career ladders
in this industry are amazing. Weneed to have our population be aware of

what's available to them, especially theyounger population in our community. Right there
is a future. If they don'tsee it in insurance, they certainly can
see it in healthcare. Plenty ofjobs, plenty of opportunity. It is
our fastest growing industry in the region. So you know, healthcare really is

something that we're great at. Andthere are job opportunities from high school graduates
all the way up to MD's Sothere's a lot of opportunity there that the
Connecticut Health Council is focused on.And then we have HYPE, which is
our young professionals group. We knowthat if we are going to grow,

and we need to grow as acommunity, it's going to be because we're
able to attract and retain the youth, the young employees, the folks that
the companies like the Hertford are hiringand they need to keep here. They're
investing in them. We need toinvest in them as well. We need
to give them the opportunity to becomewhat's called sticky here in our community,

creating the friends that they need,identifying the things that they want to get
out of life, helping them findthem here in Hertford. And that's what
hype is all about. It's aboutmaking our young professionals find a home here
and find their tribe here in Hertford. Fantasic, thank you so much for

that over and certainly all of thatwork being done is being fueled by our
partners and by our investors. TheMetro Heart for Alliance is an investor based,
a membership organization and one of thosevery strong members. And I don't
know how many years. This probablygoes back with the Hertford being one of
our oldest establishments here in the city. You know, David, is if
you could give you know, I'msure many people know the stag leading the

city, you know, kind ofover on the west end, but if
you could talk a little bit justabout kind of the Hertford kind of and
what you guys, kind of therole you play here in the community,
sure I'd be happy to. Andmy guess is we've been a member and
a supporter of the Hartford Chamber orthe Metro HeartWare Alliance as far back as
you two hundred years, which iskind of right. So so you know,

we are actually coming up on ourtwo hundred and fourteenth anniversary. We're
founded back in eighteen tents, overtwo hundred years and as you can imagine,
that put us in a position toyou know, ensure Abe Lincoln's House
and Baye Breus arms and Legs andthe construction of the Golden gate Bridge,
and we've been in Hartford, headquarteredin Hartford that entire time. We're a

large property casualty so think workers compand property insurance, auto home, general
liability. We also our big groupbenefits short term long term disability Group Life
Company, and then we have avery successful mutual funds operation as well.
Just give you a sense of scale. You know last year we did or
twenty twenty two, haven't reported twentytwenty three yet, but over twenty two

billion in revenue. We've got aboutnineteen thousand employees. And you know,
we share our name with the citywe sit in, so we have a
strong presence in the city of Hartfordand certainly a deep investment in the community
here. Definitely, And can youtalk a little bit about that investment and
specifically the investment within the MHA.And really why is it so important for

the Hertford to contribute not only financiallybut also too. I mean, you've
served as our board chair, manyof your team, you know, participate
and you know work with us indifferent projects and events. You know,
really, what's the secret behind itall? Yeah? I mean, I
think we have a deep and sharedmission and goal with MHA, whether you're
talking economic development, so attracting andretaining business businesses here in the region.

You know, the Hartford as aninsurer or over a million small businesses,
we have a deep connection on acompany basis to small businesses. M AHA
is obviously a huge supporter, theChamber is a huge supporter enabler of small
businesses. So I think the twoorganizations believe that, you know, our

mission should always be to increase thesize of the economic pie, giving more
and more people and businesses opportunities tosucceed. And the m AHA obviously sits
at the center of those efforts herein our capital city, in our region,
helping attract, retain, grow thosebusinesses, attract those employees and you

know, like everything in life,it takes a village, and the Hartford
as a company wants to be partof that. We recognize if that we
if we all work together, youknow that success has a way of right
raising all boats. And listen,While we're a global company, we've got

seventy offices are more around the USand around the world, and we're investing
in all of those communities. Certainlywhere we have an office, we have
a special relationship here in Hartford wherewe're headquartered and like I said, where
we share the name of the cityand the capitol now and we appreciate that
and are extremely proud to have theHertford here, you know, in our

backyard, which is incredible and youknow, really it leads to as I
touched on, kind of a lotof the work that we're doing and you
know, helping us support and David, you teed up kind of the great
announcement that was made this past yearat the MHA's annual meeting of three new
insure tech companies who have picked Hartfordpartially because many of the wonderful insurance companies
that we have here, like theHertford. And if you could give an

overview on those three companies because Ithink it really truly speaks to just some
of the excitement and some of thegrowth that we're seeing here in the city
and also in the region. Sure, and you know, let me piggyback
on the comment you made. Itis do in huge. Yes, that
we've got the Hartford, We've gotTravelers, We've got you know, Hartardstein

Boil, We've got all of thesegreat insurance companies just all jammed in a
very small effectively a small community.And when you're overseas, and and then
you also look at the great relationshipswe've got with the trade I'm sorry with
the Insurance Commissioner Andrew Mace, theAssistant Trade Commissioner Coski. The opportunities for

us to come in as a trulyas a private public partnership to approach a
foreign company about locating here like thereis, I guarantee you we're out on
the road and we talk to themand we see what's going on. There
is no other region in the UnitedStates that can do what we can do

in the insurance industry, you know, doing large part to our big companies,
and forever we have looked to themto guide our region, to guide
our economy, and they still are. They still are by helping us bring
new investors and new opportunities to ourregion, we will continue to grow as

a region because of who we've alwaysbeen, because of investments like the Hartford
and what they've done and the experienceand the expertise that they bring. Right,
these small intro tech companies are cominghere again in large part because they
want to be under the nose ofthe art. Right. There's nothing better

for our community than an entrepreneur,other than a rich entrepreneur, because they
were bought by one of our legacycompanies. Right. And this is the
opportunity that this corridor represents. It'san opportunity for us to bring new ideas,
new companies, and new opportunities notonly for our region, but for
our existing companies as well. Toget back to your question around the three

new companies, UH, the threeare our Gaya, which is an in
vitro fertilization insurance company, so avery niche market but a good one.
Matrix i Q, which does alot around fleet vehicle data and how how
companies can use their fleet vehicle datato identify opportunities for savings and and maybe

training and Provisico, which is youknow interesting this time of year and what
we've got going on there. It'sa flood data and flood modeling company.
Uh so that our insurers can canbetter look at how floods are happening,
where to anticipate, and how toprevent. So so three three great companies.

Innovation in each of those fantastic Andyou know, looking David as you've
been you know, kind of againpartners with the m h A for a
long time. Could you talk alittle bit. I'm just and also in
the C with C T I FS. What have you seen the impact
been on the insurance industry because ofyou know, some of the work of
the organization and you know, reallywhat as some of the changes you've seen
over the years. Yeah, solisten, I know that when you start

talking insurance, people's eyes and blazeover or in this case, their ears
start to tune out. But youknow, ours is one of the oldest
industries out there, and I sayit all the time. People people don't
start new businesses, people don't probablybuy homes or getting their cars if it
weren't for the products that the insuranceindustry provides. Security, It does,

so we go along, we goback a long way from an insurance perspective
in this in this town, weare a key engine of the economy here
in the Hartford region and across thestate of Connecticut. And I think it's
important that we don't take that forgranted, and I think that it's just
going to kind of run and prosperon its own. And that's where MHA

and the CTI f S come in, is, you know, sitting at
the epicenter of making sure that we'regiving this industry the support care that we're
getting as much as we can outof the industry from a growth and innovation
perspective. And you know, soyou know, one of the Hartford's top

priorities is to partner with organizations likeMHA and CTIFS, whether it's on economic
development generally or David mentioned hype,which is all about attracting and retaining the
talent we all need as companies tocontinue to prosper. Or CTIFS each year
showcasing and the insurance summit, whatthis industry represents, what its capabilities are,

where it's headed in the future,and what it means to our local
economy. Definitely and looking you know, certainly don't have a crystal wall in
front of you, but you know, kind of looking at the future of
the insurance industry. You know,here in Hartford, I think personally,
and I'm a non insurance person,so I'm coming from an outsider's perspective.
Insurance seems to me get get sexierevery year. There's always kind of new
tech, new ideas, you know, kind of from your vantage point,

what do you really see as thefuture? Kind of short term and then
a little bit longer term here inthe city of Harford. Yeah, I
think we probably now have more technologistsand data scientists than we do lawyers were
work at the Hertford Listen. Youknow it's a cliche nowadays, but you
know, change is constant and we'renot immune to that. We firmly believe

that the change our industry, everyindustry is going to see, you know,
over the next twenty years, isgoing to be more than we saw
in the last hundred years. Thechange will never be as slow as it
is today right now. It's justthere's an acceleration we're all seeing and we're
no exception. Our CEO, ChrisSwift, likes to refer to the Hartford

as a two hundred year old startupkaand that's his way of making it clear
to everybody that even though we've beenaround for two hundred years and have a
huge body of experience and a bookof business developed, we have to be
in innovating every single day, constantlytesting and learning and investing in the future.
And so then you start to thinkabout data and analytics and technology,

whether it's cloud computing or artificial intelligence. Cutting edge digital capabilities are in our
customers, current and future customers.You know, they want to interact with
us on the phone, they wantto interact with us through agents, they
want to interact on the internet ontheir iPhone, and we have to be
able to meet them and speak tothem through any one of the channels that

they, you know, choose toreach out to us. So, you
know, we were excited by thechange that's coming. It creates new career
opportunities, but at the core ofeverything we do, it's about how can
we better serve the customer as theygo through that change too. Okay,
no, it makes a lot ofsense and kind of shifting gears here a
little is I want to talk alittle bit about the lifestyle, and we've

mentioned the Hertford Chamber of Commerce,and David Griggs, you mentioned, you
know, sixty three new re tailorsand restaurants opening or who have opened here
in the city thanks to the heartLift program. High level, David,
kind of quick is how important isit to the state of Connecticut, to
any state to make sure that yourcapital city is strong and thriving. I
think sometimes people think, Hey,I live in a suburb and my town's

great, But really, at theend of the day, the capital city
is really impacting those individuals and thosefamilies significantly as well. If you could
touch on that briefly. And Ithink it's safe to say that for any
larger community, having the core cityto be alive, thriving, and fun
is central to the entire community.And if you look at hart Hartford is

at the center of all of oursuburban communities, and it's like that no
matter where you go in America.But for that central core city, that's
where you put the infrastructure that givesquality of life to the community. If
you think about us, We've gotthe Excel Center, We've got Duncan Park,
we've got all of our theaters atthe Bushnellbit Hartford Stage or any of

them. Right the Anthoneum. Right, We've got this collection of cultural assets
and opportunities right in our downtown corefor our entire region. Those aren't assets
just for the city of Hertford,therefore our region and quite frankly for the
world, right, And we needto think about Hartford on a more global

stage and our ability to bring people. And you know, I just had
the opportunity to walk through the Anthoneumthe other day and the works of art
that are housed here in Hertford arejust amazing, amazing that people from around
the country come to see. Youknow, we need to take advantage of
these assets. We need to bringmore people here because the way economic development

works, in a very simplistic way, is you've got to get somebody to
come visit your community first. Rightwhen they come visit your community and they
see who you are, and theyidentify with who you are, that's when
they start to consider, well,heck, why can't I put my business
there, or why can't I havea subsidiary there, or why can't I
invest in that community? Because Ilike what they're doing. We've got to

bring more people in to visit Hartfordfor us to get more people to either
invest here, move here, orjust be part of us. Right,
we need to grow and who weare as good. Right, We've got
a really good We've got a reallygood product. We've got to get it
out there into the world to know, right, and makes that so much
easier, I think on the recruitmentside, and you've touched on several times,

so it's such a you know,a bloodline of the Hertford and you
know how valuable David, do youthink it is to have a capital city
that people want to be a partof as you go on your recruiting for
new positions. Yeah, I mean, I think it just makes a huge
difference to us. And what we'vefound over the years is that while it
may be hard originally to attract peopleto the Hartford area, once they come

here and start to experience all thatthis community has to offer, which I
think you know is we have we'rea smaller city but with big city amenities.
And what we find as you getthem here transferring from all other parts
of the country come to Hartford andthen you ask them to do a rotation

in California or Texas or Florida.They don't want to leave, and so
it's hard to get them to goback out. You can come back exactly.
And the number of people that wehave that have moved elsewhere, either
to another country, company, oranother location, absolutely end up coming back
to the heart That's what we love. So it speaks volumes about the place.
Fantastic. Well, we just havea couple minutes left in the show.

I want to just touch and kindof we'll pose this same question to
both of you. Is you know, as we mentioned, really that's the
Metro heart Ford Alliance is really conveningthe business community to really collectively do work
for the region and want to getfrom each of you. Just why is
now so important? And I thinksome of the items we've touched on today
has highlighted that a bit. ButI'm going to pose that question to each

of you. David Greggs, Isorry keep calling you guys by your last
names, but I don't know howelse to do it here, So David
Griggs, I will pose that firstto you. Is just really, why
now is it so key for ourcommunity really to come together? You know,
look, the momentum is probably theeasiest way to sum it up.
We have momentum today that we haven'thad in a long time. But that

momentum can go away if we don'tnurture it, if we don't invest in
it. And that's a huge pieceof what we're trying to do. Like
when we look at the body ofwork that I MIHA is doing, a
lot of it around the chamber isbased on quality of life and the immediacy
of changing the streetscape of Hartford.On the other hand, we've got the

IFS, which is taking a morelong term approach. Right We're bringing in
lots of small companies helping them togrow that will be the future of Hartford.
And so in order for this tohappen, we need quite frankly,
the investors that we have in theHertford and Travelers and others. But we
need more because we can do more. If we have more, we can

we can multiply this momentum. Wewe're on a great track. We need
to keep doing a lot of thethings we're doing right with with CRDA and
downtown housing. We've got to continuedoing and investing in who we are and
what we do. Momentum is oursbut it could go away if we don't
invest in it. I like that. I like that multiple, multiple momentum.

So from your vantage point, David, yeah, I mean I think
David said it well. It reallyis about momentum. And if you if
you turned back the clock, youknow, seven eight years ago, I
think there was a lot of momentumbuilding in the city. At that point,
we got hit by a pandemic whichreally kind of slowed our community and

development down, as it did everycommunity across the globe. And it feels
like we've gotten that momentum back andthen some and now really does feel like
our time where that can have asnowballing, a multiplying effect, and it
comes from all different directions. Imean, you look at you know,
kind of the dysfunction in DC.We don't have that dysfunction here. We've

got a good partnership across the aislein Connecticut, people that can actually talk
and find common ground. The businesscommunity, nonprofits, the neighborhoods. I
mean, we all recognize, Ithink we are a relatively geographically small state.
We've got to work together to becollectively successful. That rising tide lifts

all boats. We're also a smallenough community where one company and even one
person can have an impact. Youcan't say that about Texas and California.
They're just so huge. I thinkas a citizen, as a small business,
certainly as a big company, youreally owe it to your own future,
but your community's future, the state'sfuture, to get engaged to help

see if you can't keep that momentumgoing or accelerate that momentum. Like I
said at the beginning, I mean, it really does take a village,
and we're all in a position tohelp that. And I get very excited,
you know. And I started workingin the city back in eighty seven,
nineteen eighty seven, and for thefirst time, you know, I

really feel like this we could bestanding on the precipice of a very dramatic
ten to fifteen years in the cityof Hartford and the surrounding region. Could
not agree with you more. Ithink we will close the show off on
that. So thank you both somuch for being here, David. For
people who want to get more involvedin the work of the Metro Heartford Alliance,
where can they go Metrohartford dot comor call Kate powmanh there you go.

Thanks for the thanks for the plot, but you always can give me
a call. Fantastic. Well,thank you guys so much. And as
we close out the show today,we would like to welcome a new investor
to the MHA. I've heard todaywe really refer to our members as investors
because they're investing in the work we'redoing for the region. And today we
welcome the Double Tree by Hilton HertfordDowntown. Get ready to experience the best

of Hertford, Connecticut in style andcomfort at the soon to be Double Tree
by Hilton Hertford Downtown. The transformationof the Hilton Hertford to the Double Tree
by Hilton will be completed in Marchof twenty twenty four after a full renovation
and rebranding. On site restaurant freeWi Fi ensures seamless comfort, while the
signature Double Tree warm chocolate chip cookieswaits for you upon arrival. I have

to be honest, I was overthere the other day. They are so
fantastic, So it's going to becomean addiction for me right around the corner.
But for all the details about today'sshow, about the new companies,
the new restaurants, everything opening uphere in Hartford. Please visit Metrohartford dot
com. We'd like to give abig thank you to our show partner,
Okill, and of course thanks toyou for listening. I'm Kate Auman.
Go out and make today a goodday here in Connecticut.
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