Gaming or meaningful growth? Matt's Memo

Anaren products.

The intersection of news events often deserves careful consideration. Tomorrow the public has a chance to decide whether New York State should dive into the business of casino gaming as a means to help pay for education and create jobs. The proposal one referendum comes the day after an unrelated development in the business world. Anaren announced it has agreed to sell to an investment company called Veritas.

Anaren is one of the great homegrown business success stories of the last 50 years. In 1967, two friends who had worked for General Electric decided to cast out on their own in the microwave component business. Defense contracts would be their bread and butter. They needed a name for the company and decided to take a piece of each of their wives names to create Anaren.

Along the way they put people to work by the hundreds. The company survived a leadership and generational changeover. It expanded slowly and bought out businesses of a similar mind. Anaren created jobs through innovation.

Recently company leadership began feeling pressure to sell to an investment group which had developed a significant stake in the company. Talks would start and stop. The board of directors would keep turning down offers. Finally, we heard today the offer was too good to resist.

Anaren is selling at a value of $380 million or so. This high tech, locally grown company now begins a new chapter. The community hopes the jobs remain and perhaps more growth will take place. Yet the story is already one of success.

This deal is done just as Governor Cuomo leads a major publicity push to get approval from voters for to expand casino gaming Upstate. There are promises of jobs, funding for education and construction projects. If it passes this all sounds like a good deal for New York. But is it really?

Do we need to have a casino within a one hour drive for everyone in New York State? Is the Empire State ready to hang its economic revival on gaming? Wouldn't it be better to look closely at innovators like Anaren as examples of ways to do business the right way.

Fully utilizing our regions academic centers, encouraging entrepreneurs and creating a business friendly environment seems like a better long term path when compared to building more room for slot machines.

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