Bipartisan celebration marks Fifth Street ribbon-cutting in Greenwich

From left, First Selectman Peter Tesei, State Rep. Livvy Floren, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, Leonard and Stacey Tannenbaum, Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development Catherine Smith and James Velgot, chief marketing officer, cut the ribbon of the Fifth Street headquarters. –John Ferris Robben

From left, First Selectman Peter Tesei, State Rep. Livvy Floren, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, Leonard and Stacey Tannenbaum, Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development Catherine Smith and James Velgot, chief marketing officer, cut the ribbon of the Fifth Street headquarters. –John Ferris Robben

There was a festive (and bipartisan) mood in the air on Wednesday when company owner Leonard Tannenbaum and his wife Stacey cut the ribbon on the new Greenwich headquarters of Fifth Street Management, LLC.

There were so many people on hand for the official opening for the company’s presence at 777 West Putnam Avenue, where it has taken over the entire third floor, that U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-4th) termed it a “who’s who of Connecticut politics.” Beyond Mr. Himes, First Selectman Peter Tesei and Selectman Drew Marzullo were there as was State Sen. L. Scott Frantz (R-36th), State Sen. Bob Duff (D-25th) and State Reps. Livvy Floren (R-149th), Stephen Walko (R-150th) and Fred Camillo (R-151st), among others, including the state Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development Catherine Smith. And they were on hand to show their support for Mr. Tannenbaum, who had relocated his headquarters from White Plains, N.Y., to Greenwich, bringing in close to 90 jobs to town, with more slated to be added in the years to come.

“This is something we should see more of in this country,” Mr. Tannenbaum said. “You see Democrats and Republicans sitting side by side, speaking after the other socially and pleasantly and working together toward a common goal of making business better for our state and making business better for our city. This is what we need as a country. We need Congress, from both sides of the aisle, Democrats and Republicans, to realize that it’s about small business and small business growth.”

Mr. Tannenbaum, the CEO and founder of the company, discussed the humble beginnings of Fifth Street in a basement in Mt. Kisco, N.Y., 16 years ago to where it is now with $5.7 billion under management. Fifth Street Management LLC is an alternative asset manager focused on credit strategies, providing custom-tailored financing solutions to small and mid-sized companies, primarily in connection with investments by private equity sponsors. He said the firm could have moved to a tax-free state like Florida but they wanted to invest in Connecticut and build the state’s economy.

“Employment is not done by the government, employment is done by me and you,” Mr. Tannenbaum said. “My 12 partners and I, we have Democrats, independents and Republicans, work together because we want our business to succeed. We partnered with the governor and Catherine and the state and we did it in a way that we really wanted to make the choice to come here to Connecticut.”

Gov. Dannel Malloy was supposed to be on hand for the ribbon-cutting as well but was held up by other appearances. The event itself did bring along with it a small political storm as Mr. Malloy’s policy to bring in businesses like Mr. Tennenbaum’s has come under heavy criticism from his Republican opponent Tom Foley, who has said the policy is essentially picking economic winners and losers and not providing consistent job growth. Mr. Tannenbaum is a vocal supporter of Mr. Foley’s but there was no debate at the event, just celebration as Mr. Tannenbaum said the bipartisan crowd showed it was possible to unite both parties.

Mr. Tannenbaum had many friends and a lot of family on hand, including his grandmother, who had traveled from Florida to see the launch of the new headquarters. After the ceremony he gave a tour of the facility to several of the attendees and outlined his plans to invest and expand in the area as remodeling was finishing up in the building, which he purchased as part of the relocation deal. Other firms, including attorneys starting their first Connecticut offices, will also be moving into the building.

While Mr. Malloy could not make it, Ms. Smith spoke and said that this was “one of those great moments” because of how exciting it was to welcome new businesses to the state, teasing that they “loved” it when they got them from New York. She said this was proof that policies to boost the state’s economy were working.

“This fantastic firm does so much good work in financial services for mid-sized companies around the country,” Ms. Smith said. “When I became the commissioner under Gov. Malloy’s leadership, we made a commitment to try and put in place a strategic plan for economic development that would really start to see more job growth in the state. It would be a plan where we would invest, not just stay the course, in those areas where we thought had the greatest potential for the state. We’ve seen enormous investment in education, in transportation and other parts of the economy that support our business community. But we’ve also been very strategic in which kinds of firms we want to see grow and establish themselves in this state. Financial services is at the core of that part of our strategy.”

Several of the politicians took to the microphone before a large crowd enjoying everything from shrimp and sirloin hors d’oeuvres to ice cream and popcorn to thank Mr. Tannenbaum for bringing his business to Greenwich, where he is already a resident and wishing him the best of luck. Noting that the location was at the Greenwich/Port Chester, N.Y., line, Mr. Tesei said it truly made the town the “gateway to New England” and that he couldn’t think of a better representative than Mr. Tannenbaum and his company.

“We hope you have a long and successful history at this location,” Mr. Tesei said.

Ms. Floren now finds herself doubly representing Mr. Tannenbaum since he both lives and works in her district and she called it a “wonderful, wonderful day” to welcome the business to the “grand and glorious 149th District.”

“This is a business presence and it’s also a community presence,” Ms. Floren said. “Len and Stacey bring civic involvement and philanthropy and real caring about this community. I know Fifth Street is going to grow and thrive in this location.”

As a member of the House of Representatives Financial Services Committee, as well as a former employee of Goldman Sachs, Mr. Himes said he understood just how important businesses like Fifth Street are to Connecticut’s economy.

“We all recognize that it is through innovative, thoughtful, creative, high value added businesses like this one that our state and all of us will thrive,” Mr. Himes said. “We are absolutely thrilled to have you here. As a member of the House Committee on Financial Services, though it is not easy to say, in the United States, financial services is one of the small number of absolutely world-beating industries that this country has. While it’s been controversial and challenging and still gets batted back and forth in the political arena, the financial services industry, the intermediation of capital, is absolutely essential to this economy and our competitiveness globally.”

Mr. Himes, a Cos Cob resident, said that he hoped it would be more than just the business moving to the town as he urged all the employees to check out Greenwich’s schools and beaches.

“Join our community,” Mr. Himes said. “There aren’t a lot of places as wonderful to live in and to raise a family as Greenwich, Connecticut.”

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