Calling Connecticut “the land of steady habits” used to be a compliment--but not anymore, said Governor Malloy at Connecticut Business Day in Hartford this week. “We’ve remained steady for far too long in failing to build on our strengths and failing to address our weaknesses.”

Speaking to more than 200 business leaders from across the state, the governor noted that the only states that have not grown jobs in the economic recovery are Connecticut and Michigan. (“And they have an excuse,” he said of Michigan, with the reformation of the auto industry.)

In addition to Gov. Malloy, Business Day speakers included Speaker of the House J. Brendan Sharkey (D-Hamden), Senate Minority Leader John McKinney (R-Fairfield), and House Republican Leader Larry Cafero (R-Norwalk) in a panel dealing with the state’s fiscal issues.

The morning program also included a roundtable discussion with members of the legislature’s Manufacturing Caucus and a panel on tourism in Connecticut.

Connecticut Business Day is an annual event sponsored by CBIA and the Connecticut Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives.

Priorities

The governor said that his budget proposal for the next two fiscal years reflects his focus on job creation and retention, improving the state’s education system, and working toward middle-class tax relief.

“Now is the time to make the investments to grow our economy and make sure our children and grandchildren will have good jobs,” said the governor.

Reforming education from pre-K to the colleges and universities is of critical importance not only because the state has an intolerable achievement gap, but also because Connecticut has one of the oldest workforces in the U.S.

“We are a precision manufacturing capital,” said the governor, “but we don’t have enough engineers and machinists to replace those who are retiring.”

His economic and education initiatives are linked by design, from expanding pre K opportunities and making schools and teachers more accountable, to building up science, technology, engineering, and math studies at UConn and attracting biosciences industries and innovators to Connecticut.

All of these initiatives have “laid the foundation” for Connecticut’s economy to be driven by fast-growing industries and a highly skilled workforce to fuel them.

Fiscal Issues

The panel of legislative leaders then tackled the question of how they planned to work together to solve the state’s fiscal issues and rebuild business confidence.

Acknowledging the recession’s impact on Connecticut, Speaker Sharkey said it also exposed some underlying weaknesses: “We did not have a good foundation for a diverse economy, nor a good business climate to allow businesses to increase their investments here.”

Lawmakers now not only have to get the state through the current fiscal crisis, said Sharkey, but also “set the stage for economic growth that will last.”

Sen. McKinney, however, said the governor’s budget proposal works against those goals by extending for two more years three business taxes that were set to expire on June 30. “That fosters the instability that businesses are suffering from.”

Still, legislators have a recent track record of working in a bipartisan fashion to get big things done, said Rep. Cafero—such as with the education reforms, job-creation initiatives, and the deficit mitigation session of last December.

“We’ve got problems, real problems,” said Cafero, “but we stand ready and able to work together.”

Manufacturing Caucus

One breakout session was an open discussion between members of the legislature’s new bipartisan Manufacturing Caucus and scores of manufacturing executives.

Caucus members who participated included Sen. Gary LeBeau (D-East Hartford), Sen. Art Linares (R-Westbrook), Rep. Jeff Berger (D-Waterbury), Rep. Whit Betts (R-Bristol), Rep. Betty Boukus (D-Plainville), Rep. Henry Genga (D-East Hartford), Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-Wilton), Rep. Selim Noujaim (R-Waterbury), and Rep. Jonathan Steinberg (D-Westport).

Much of the talk centered on the continuing vitality of manufacturing in Connecticut and the importance of manufacturers getting directly involved in education--to improve the quality of instruction and expand the pool of students interested in manufacturing careers.

Other issues that were raised included taxes, regulations, and the state’s business climate.

Tourism in Connecticut

Another breakout session featured tourism industry leaders in a discussion that centered on promoting Connecticut’s attractions and measuring those marketing efforts.

Leading the discussion were Randy Fiveash, director, Connecticut Office of Tourism; Tony Sheridan, president and CEO, Chamber of Commerce, Eastern Connecticut; and Ginny Kozlowski, executive director, Connecticut Lodging Association.

Opinions were mixed on the state’s “Still Revolutionary” marketing campaign that launched last May, but while it apparently has helped increase some tourism in Connecticut, not enough data is available yet.

Thanks!

Thanks to everyone who attended Connecticut Business Day, including these chambers of commerce and other business organizations from across Connecticut:

  • Avon Chamber of Commerce
  • Branford Chamber of Commerce
  • Bridgeport Regional Business Council
  • Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce
  • Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut
  • The Chamber of Commerce Inc. | Windham Region
  • Cheshire Chamber of Commerce
  • East Hartford Chamber of Commerce
  • Greater Meriden Chamber of Commerce
  • Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce
  • Greater New Britain Chamber of Commerce
  • Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce
  • Greater Norwalk Chamber of Commerce
  • Greater Norwich Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce
  • Guilford Chamber of Commerce
  • Hamden Chamber of Commerce
  • Madison Chamber of Commerce
  • Metro Hartford Chamber of Commerce
  • Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce
  • New Haven Manufacturers Association
  • The Northeast Connecticut Economic Alliance
  • Northwest Connecticut’s Chamber of Commerce
  • Quinnipiac Chamber of Commerce
  • Smaller Manufacturers Association
  • Tolland County Chamber of Commerce
  • Waterbury Regional Chamber of Commerce
  • Westport-Weston Chamber of Commerce
  • Wilton Chamber of Commerce

For more information, contact CBIA’s Bonnie Stewart at 860.244.1925 or bonnie.stewart@cbia.com.