Save the Children‘s possible move out of its Wilton Road headquarters has generated plenty of headlines.
And you’d have to be living, brain dead, under a very large rock to not know that the Westport Y‘s move 2 miles up that same Wilton Road has caused considerable agita in town.
Why, then, has the proposed relocation of Westport’s largest employer — and biggest taxpayer — been met with a thunderous round of “meh”?
(Then again, maybe not. On Monday the CT Mirror posted a long story describing opposition to the 750,000-square foot headquarters — “smack in the middle of a high-risk flood zone.”
(Plus, some folks are atwitter that Bridgewater will receive $115 million in state assistance to ease the move. The firm has $130 billion under management. And CEO Ray Dallio — worth $10 billion himself — is one of the world’s richest men, according to Forbes magazine.)
Oh, did I mention that Bridgewater Associations is not just “a” hedge fund. It is, according to CNN Money, the largest hedge fund.
On the planet.
Whoa! So not only is Bridgewater Westport’s largest employer and taxpayer — it’s also the mother of all hedge funds.
Yet when was the last time you heard anyone say anything about them leaving?
Or, in fact, the last time someone said something about the fact that they’re even here?
I understand hedge funds are somewhat secretive. But think of the big corporations we’ve had in Westport.
Everyone knows Save the Children. Its predecessor, Famous Artists Schools, was also world-famous. (Okay, they had to get their name out there. Their customers were people paying a few dollars to learn to draw and write, not fabulously wealthy customers hoping to become even fabulously wealthier.)
But when Marketing Corporation of America — the world’s largest marketing firm, at the time — was headquartered on Riverside Avenue, everyone in town sure knew they were here.
We knew Tauck Tours was here too. They’re the company that invented the group travel industry, then modernized it with high-end, worldwide itineraries.
Same with Stauffer Chemical, which made (hey, someone had to) herbicides for corn and rice.
And before that, Embalmers’ Supply Company — yes, the largest in the world — called Westport home.
All of those businesses — big, robust, important — were integral parts of Westport. As corporations, they were good neighbors. As human beings, the men and women who worked there were our neighbors.
But Bridgewater has been virtually invisible. Scattered in 5 locations — the 2 biggest sites are the old Glendinning building on Weston Road (very convenient to scooting on and off the Merritt Parkway) and Nyala Farm (ditto for 95) — it was easy for the hard-working, high-rolling hedge fund men and women to have little to do with Westport life.
When Bridgewater leaves Westport, 5 or so years from now, we’ll miss their tax dollars.
But I don’t know that we’ll miss them. Because, really, were they ever really here?