Next month, Connecticut's newly elected legislators begin a critical General Assembly session, one that will have an impact on the economic future of our state.
The session will be dominated by the state's next two-year budget.
This will be a difficult budget, made more challenging by the current deficit and the state's long-term unfunded liabilities, issues that continue to hamper our economic growth.
And legislators also may have the opportunity to review recommendations from a special study panel for making the state's tax code simpler, more competitive, and more attractive to job creators.
It's a prime opportunity for the business community to play a central role in ensuring legislators are informed and understand the implications of their decisions.
If the close results from Election Day indicate anything, it's that Connecticut voters want more than the status quo. They want action on their top concerns — the economy and job creation.
CBIA and dozens of other business, professional, and community groups support the CT20x17 campaign and its goal of making Connecticut a top 20 state for business by 2017. The objective? Building a vibrant, growing economy with more opportunities for good, well-paying jobs.
Over the past six months, supporters laid the foundation for this campaign, raising public awareness and developing a series of commonsense policy recommendations ahead of the 2015 General Assembly session.
Now, the real work begins. We must channel this initial enthusiasm and support into meaningful advocacy, making sure that every bill raised in the coming session is considered for its impact on the state's business climate and our economy.
We need every legislator from every community to hear from business leaders and employees about the campaign and how its success will help attract and retain world-class companies and encourage more young people to build their careers and lives here.
CT20x17 is an ambitious campaign. Connecticut is challenged by national studies that consistently rank it as a poor state in which to do business.
Forbes recently released its annual Best States for Business rankings, citing high costs, a slow economy, and regulatory burdens in dropping Connecticut to 36th.
That analysis mirrors CNBC's annual Top States for Business study, which now ranks Connecticut's business climate as the fifth worst in the country.
These types of rankings create a perception, good or bad, about a state's viability as a place to start and grow a business and create jobs. They impact the decisions companies make about where to invest, expand, or relocate.
Capital investments and talent will flow where there are the best opportunities for success. There's nothing Connecticut can do to change that fundamental law of economics. We're either going to offer great future prospects or they will go elsewhere.
Our low rankings in these studies must reinforce a sense of urgency that all of us, including the Malloy administration and state lawmakers, should have about improving our business climate.
Collective efforts by the business community to communicate and engage with policymakers have generated many positive results over the years.
One of the most notable was the campaign CBIA and other business groups spearheaded to reform workers compensation in Connecticut, resulting in landmark legislation that stabilized what was the country's costliest workers comp system.
Our message was simple: reform workers comp, it's costing Connecticut jobs. We were effective because everywhere legislators went, they heard the message that an unfair system severely limited employers' ability to grow their workforce. Legislators heard it so often that they realized they must do something about it, and they did.
We need the same energy, commitment, and support to make CT20x17 successful. Stay informed, stay engaged, and hold elected officials accountable so they will take notice and act.
I'm looking forward to seeing the changes that CT20x17 will bring to the state. I'm optimistic that by working together, we will make Connecticut a top state for business. Doing so will certainly secure a brighter future for everyone.--John Rathgeber
John Rathgeber retires next month after 37 years with CBIA, the last 10 as president and chief executive officer. This article first appeared in the Hartford Business Journal.