The first trans-Atlantic flight in eight years took off from Bradley International Airport yesterday and it couldn't have come quick enough for Connecticut businesses.

"I'm fed up with JFK, Boston, and Newark," LAZ Parking chief financial officer Nathan Owen told the Hartford Courant.

Owen was aboard the Aer Lingus flight that departed Bradley for Dublin Wednesday, and represents the vital target market that brought the Irish air carrier to Connecticut.

Department of Community and Economic Development commissioner Catherine Smith was also on the flight, calling it an important milestone for the airport and the state.

Smith noted the "absolute overlap" of the kind of businesses Ireland is attracting and those that have made a big impact in Connecticut.

"From bioscience, to advance manufacturing to financial services and beyond," Smith said. "It's just going to be a wonderful alliance."

DECD provided Aer Lingus with revenue guarantees up to $9 million to bring the airline to Hartford and Bradley pitched in $5 million in fee waivers and marketing money.

There's no doubt that restoring trans-Atlantic service is critical not only to Bradley's future, but to Connecticut's business community and the state's economy.

The direct connection helps better leverage European investment, a growing part of Connecticut's economy.
When Northwest dropped its Amsterdam route in 2008--partly because of the recession--it was a significant blow to the region's strategic efforts to better connect with the global economy.

Business leaders and economic development types alike lamented the loss of a quick and easy connection to European markets when so much of this state's economic output occurs on a global scale.

And it's a two-way street, as the direct Dublin-Hartford connection helps better leverage European investment, a growing part of Connecticut's economy.

As Patricia Abaroa, chief of the Direct Investment Division of the Bureau of Economic Analysis, noted at CBIA's The Connecticut Economy conference earlier this month, new foreign direct investment brought $727 million to the state in 2015.

While the largest cumulative foreign direct investment in the United States—15%—can be traced to the United Kingdom, Ireland accounted for the biggest first-year expenditure of any country in 2015.

U.S. affiliates of multinational enterprises employ 99,400 people in Connecticut, the largest share of which are European manufacturers.

It's in all of our interests for the new Hartford-Dublin connection to succeed.

Pete Gioia is an economist with CBIA. Follow him on Twitter @CTEconomist.