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Difficult decisions require strong leaders

By TONY SHERIDAN

Publication: The Day

Published February 03. 2013 4:00AM
Groton's mayor showed judgment and gumption in selling cable business

Mayor Marian Galbraith and the City Council of Groton have moved forward with the transfer of ownership of Groton's cable company, Thames Valley Communications, to the investment management firm CTP Investors. This was a tough call, but it was the right one, and showed leadership when it was needed. Too often we see government officials at the national, state and indeed the local level push difficult financial problems down the road to be left for future leaders to resolve. Mayor Galbraith chose not to do so. In her first term she took the necessary steps to address a difficult financial problem that had been growing for many years. For this she deserves our respect.

The city's venture into the cable industry was made with good intentions and at the time was needed to fill a void of quality cable service in the region. Yet, over the last decade the cable market has evolved at a rapid pace and even bigger players such as AT&T and Comcast could not have predicted how vastly different the marketplace would be at this point in time. We were lucky to be dialing up AOL Internet on a hard phone line when TVC started, and now we have home-based cloud systems and endless wireless options.

The nationwide cable corporations have been able to stay competitive with their abundant capital in a market that needs constant technology upgrades and broadband investments. AT&T has been in the process of investing over $300 million in Connecticut alone on broadband improvements.

For smaller cable companies, like TVC, this became an issue.

One of the biggest concerns for city officials was finding a bidder with the ability to continue service to the community and willing to make a commitment to retaining the Thames Valley employees. Fortunately, CTP Investors will have the capital to do this.

Continuing Thames Valley Communications under new ownership and away from liquidation, while saving the jobs of the current employees, is a commendable act in this economy. With a company that has plans to expand this local broadband business and retain the high quality service that customers have come to expect, TVC's future has gone from bleak to full of potential.

The decision to sell a business is never an easy one, but one that takes courage and insight. Upon taking office, Mayor Galbraith was saddled with both the bond debt and an ever-growing financial liability. She had the courage to stop this drain on her city. The sale of TVC is the only way to begin to unburden Groton Utilities, and thereby the City of Groton. Doing so will free Groton Utilities from the growing financial strain and will allow GU to focus on providing the quality water and electric services to their customers that they are known for. The city can be justly proud of Groton Utilities' successful water and electric services which are the envy of the entire region.

Tony Sheridan is president and chief executive officer of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut and former first selectman of the Town of Waterford.

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