AVANGRID consolidating functions in Orange

ORANGE >> Avangrid Inc., which oversees the U.S. utility holdings of Spanish energy giant Iberdrola, is moving its headquarters from the Connecticut Financial Center in New Haven to Marsh Hill Road in Orange, a company spokesman said recently.

The move will involve about 80 people, Michael West, an Avangrid spokesman said. Some of the workers have already moved to 180 Marsh Hill Road, West said, while others will relocate in the coming weeks.

The town address is part of the corporate campus that is home to three companies overseen by Avangrid: the United Illuminating Co., Southern Connecticut Gas and Connecticut Natural Gas.

West said the relocation “is really a question of efficiency.”

“We will still have a significant tax presence in New Haven in terms of our assets,” West said, referring to the elements of U.I. electric distribution network. “I would say this move would have a minimal impact on the city.”

U.I. moved its headquarters to Orange from the Connecticut Financial Center in April 2012, leaving behind its corporate parent, which was then known as UIL Holdings. Avangrid was created as a result of the closing of the $3 billion merger between UIL Holdings and Iberdrola in December 2015.

Avangrid has utilities operating in 27 states and serving 3.2 million customers in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts and New York. Avangrid’s renewable power business unit has wind and solar projects in 22 states.

Matthew Nemerson, New Haven’s economic development administrator, said Avangrid can still contribute to the economic well-being of the city even though its headquarters is being moved.

“It would be missing the point to say they have abandoned New Haven,” Nemerson said. “There is a complexity here. There are a lot of ways that we can continue to have a close relationship and create a corporate culture which New Haven is at the center.”

Nemerson acknowledged that having fewer people working in New Haven’s downtown is problematic for the city’s economy.

“The whole concept of a downtown with activities and restaurants requires a lot of people,” he said. “We’re building a base of restaurants and shops and they need people to keep them going. So it is clearly in our interests to have companies downtown.”

West said Iberdrola had committed to adding 150 new jobs as part of its merger with UIL and “we’ve added a least that many.”

“Avangrid is bringing new people to the area, with both new hires and people relocating from other locations,” he said. “These people will avail themselves of all that New Haven and the entire area has to offer. We have always been cognizant of economic development in both the state and the region and we see this as an extension of that.”

David Cadden, a professor emeritus at Quinnipiac University’s School of Business, said Avangrid’s relocation to Orange bucks the trend of companies such as Aetna and General Electric going from suburban locations to city centers.

“Companies are moving to the cities to recruit hot-shot talent, like engineers, IT professionals and social media types,” Cadden said. “I don’t see this as being as much of an issue for this company because this is a straight-forward utility business.”

Call Luther Turmelle at 203-680-9388.