BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Deval Patrick on Friday declared his 10-day overseas trade mission a success while dismissing criticism that the trip was short on substance and diverted his attention from serious issues back home.
In his first meeting with reporters since returning from Israel and the United Kingdom, the Democratic governor was repeatedly asked to defend a trip that appeared to produce only modestly tangible results. Patrick and other state officials, meanwhile, acknowledged being caught off guard by mutual funds giant Fidelity Investments’ announcement this week that it planned to move more than 1,000 jobs out of Massachusetts.
Republicans and other critics chided Patrick, saying the state actually lost more jobs during the governor’s absence than were gained by his overseas meetings.
“That’s a spin,” Patrick said of the criticism, saying the mission cemented important business relationships that will pay off for Massachusetts down the road.
“You don’t make trips like this and measure them based on how many purchase orders for widgets get signed while you are away,” he said. “Today the way business is done is by building relationships, investment opportunities, market opportunities and doing that business to business.”
The trip produced an agreement for increased research and development collaboration between Massachusetts and Israeli companies and a deal for cooperation between stem cell researchers in Massachusetts and the United Kingdom, the governor noted. A British company also announced plans to add 50 jobs in its Boston office.
Patrick said Friday that a couple of more companies would be announcing commitments in Massachusetts in the coming weeks, and that delegations from Israel and the U.K. would be visiting the state soon.
Fidelity’s announcement that it planned to close its Marlborough office and move about 1,100 jobs to facilities in Rhode Island and New Hampshire left him frustrated as well as disappointed, said Patrick, who planned to meet with company leaders to ask why the state wasn’t given a chance to “compete” to keep those jobs.
The governor said Fidelity appeared to consider the move a “done deal” and he had little hope that company officials would reverse their decision. But, he added: “I want them to say that to my face.”
Fidelity officials had planned to participate in the British leg of the trade mission, the governor said, but pulled out just before the trip. He said he did know if their decision not to attend was directly related to the jobs announcement.
Patrick tempered his comments by saying that he was not looking to scold or punish Fidelity for making a business decision, and that Massachusetts has had a strong relationship with the company for years.
Boston-based Fidelity, which along with other mutual fund companies have enjoyed a tax break from Massachusetts since 1996, has said that it is seeking to consolidate some of its New England operations and would continue to have thousands of employees in Massachusetts.
The state Republican Party on Friday sent Patrick a mock “welcome home” message asking him to explain “stunning job losses” among other things.
“A lot has happened since Deval took off and taxpayers in Massachusetts will pay for it. We need answers. I am glad Deval is home to explain his actions,” MassGOP executive director Nate
Little said in a statement.
Patrick said he was in touch with aides back home throughout his trip, strongly denying accusations that he had been out of touch.
“There was no disengagement,” he said.
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