Northwest Businesses Want Greater Regional Collaboration
Greater regional collaboration is the top economic priority for Northwest Connecticut businesses, according to a new survey released today.
The 2016 Survey of Northwest Connecticut Businesses, produced by CBIA and the Northwest Chamber of Commerce, also found that despite challenges, companies in the region are performing marginally better than their counterparts in other areas of the state.
“Regional collaboration will sustain our corner of the state and help it thrive.”
In addition to greater collaboration between public-sector, private-sector, and nonprofit organizations, maintaining and growing the manufacturing base (56%) and retaining young workers (47%) were also cited as priorities.
The location between New York, Boston, and Springfield (43%) and the environment (43%) ranked as the region’s top advantages, while the loss of young workers (65%) was the biggest weakness.
When asked why employees leave the region, most survey respondents cited the state’s high cost of living, particularly taxes and housing.
Regional businesses face multiple difficulties in filling open positions, with a lack of skilled applicants the biggest issue, cited by 56% of businesses.
Not enough applicants (43%), applicants who are not job-ready (41%), and employers’ inability to meet salary demands (37%) were also identified.
Just over a third of respondents (36%) rated workforce quality as good or excellent, basically unchanged since the last survey; 47% said it was average and 17% said it was poor or terrible.
“Developing the next generation of skilled talent should be a top concern for everyone in the state, particularly here,” said Peter Gioia, economist, CBIA.
“Our innovative companies need and depend on a highly skilled workforce for their future growth and success.”
The survey also found that just over half (52%) of respondents forecast increased sales revenue for the next year, a decline of 7% from the last survey in 2014, while 37% expect unchanged revenues, and 11% say revenues will decline.
Northwest Connecticut businesses are deeply concerned about the strength and growth prospects for both the regional and state economies.
They are particularly anxious about Connecticut’s overall business climate and the inability of the legislature to resolve the state’s ongoing fiscal crisis.
Based on the survey responses, driving economic growth in the region and state will require different approaches and priorities.
Reduce state spending, cut taxes, stimulate investment, and grow jobs.
“Taxes are too high in Connecticut," said one survey respondent.
"We are chasing residents out of the state. Reduce state spending, cut taxes or eliminate tax increases, stimulate investment, and grow jobs.”
Investing in northwest Connecticut’s towns and cities and providing incentives for businesses were the main priorities for driving economic growth in the region, with many respondents noting specific regional concerns.
“The state of Connecticut takes a huge piece of our profit, but is not reinvesting it in helpful areas,” another business leader responded.
The 2016 Survey of Northwest Connecticut Businesses was emailed to 1,181 businesses throughout northwestern Connecticut in September 2016.
There were 229 responses, for a return rate of 19.4% and a margin of error of +/-2.3%.
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