Pratt & Whitney President Calls for State to ‘Transform Itself’

02.01.2011
Economy

By Lesia Winiarskyj

It was standing room only as David Hess, president of Pratt & Whitney, delivered the morning address at the CBIA/MetroHartford Alliance Economic Summit & Outlook 2011 on Jan. 7.

Hess began with an overview of Pratt & Whitney’s history and future in Connecticut, including the development of PurePower Geared Turbofan engines that have recently won places on aircraft being developed in Japan, Canada, and Russia. Among other efforts, he said, the development of these engines has reenergized the company’s international presence in a difficult economy and helped it “take back share.”

Just as businesses have had to reinvent themselves in the 21st century, he noted, state government likewise needs to “transform itself in the face of new challenges.

“There has been a huge shift in the global economy, with profound implications for our state. Just as those of us in the business sector must always be sensitive to our competition, so must our state”_The urgency of [Connecticut’s] financial crisis ought to be more than enough incentive to start transforming our state.”

In 1990, Hess pointed out, seven out of 10 Pratt & Whitney employees lived and worked in Connecticut; today, it’s closer to three out of 10. In fact, nearly half of the company’s workforce (46%) is based outside the U.S. He explained that globalization has meant companies have many options about where to locate.

“Business goes where it can be successful.”

A Shift in Attitude

Although high housing and energy costs are drawbacks to doing business in Connecticut, Hess argued that state leaders can help offset those disadvantages.

“An attitude change is the first step,” he said.

To attract business investment, according to Hess, government needs to move from a sometimes adversarial relationship with businesses to a more supportive one.

Developing a Track Record

Companies are attracted to locations that demonstrate a long-term commitment to economic growth and “stick by the promises they make” to businesses, said Hess. “I recommend that the leaders of our state consider benchmarking states like Virginia and South Carolina, [which] have a consistent track record of attracting businesses.”

Fostering business growth, he added, “will generate the wealth to solve some of the problems our new governor and the General Assembly face.”

Connecticut faces some tough issues, he acknowledged in his closing remarks, but added, “I sense a new attitude about tackling them: including the promise of enlightened leadership from Governor Malloy, who has already reached out to the business community in a big way.”

The governor’s participation in the CBIA/MetroHartford Alliance Economic Summit & Outlook, Hess pointed out, “says everything about his attitude toward business in the state of Connecticut.”

Lesia Winiarskyj is a writer-editor at CBIA. She can be reached at lesia.winiarskyj@cbia.com.

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