Trouble often arrives in threes, and Connecticut recently endured a tough publicity trifecta from, CNBC, and The Economist, who each highlighted some of the state’s most serious economic weaknesses.

What they focused on—such as our enormous debt for state employees’ and teachers’ pensions—may be true, said CBIA President & CEO John Rathgeber at a lunch briefing this week before the nonpartisan Connecticut Policy Institute, “but we can do something about it.”

In his talk, which you can see here on CT-N, Rathgeber says that fixing our problems begins with recognizing and building on the state’s many strengths.

“Connecticut still has a diversity of world-class industries that are the envy of other states and the world,” said Rathgeber.

From healthcare to financial services and advanced manufacturing, Connecticut is home to powerhouse companies, industries and innovators.

What’s more, “we have the most productive and innovative workforce in the country.”  Connecticut also ranks high in the nation in exporting, and is No. 1 in private-sector R&D investment—all signs of economic strength.   

The bottom line is that “we have something that other people want”--which explains why other states are trying so hard to lure our companies to their supposedly greener pastures.   

So how do we turn things around here, to grow more jobs and increase business investments in the state? A change in attitude toward Connecticut’s employer community would help, said Rathgeber.

“We can’t continue to make it more difficult to do business here than it is to do business elsewhere.” Policymakers should be focusing on nurturing our economic base industries and addressing the challenges they face.

While it’s important to have a portfolio of economic incentives that can attract businesses from other states to Connecticut, he said, the reality is that most of our future economic growth will come from the companies that are already committed to growing here.

Rathgeber goes on to identify some of the biggest hurdles facing Connecticut’s businesses and economy, and ways to overcome them.

He talks about restoring business confidence, tightening state fiscal policy, addressing our mountainous long-term debt, improving education to build a more competitive workforce, reducing business costs, and improving Connecticut’s regulatory environment.

 “The most important thing is fiscal policy,” said Rathgeber. The best job-creation program in the state would be “if the legislative and executive branches would work together on fixing both our short-term and long-term fiscal problems.”

It would also be good, he added, if many lawmakers stopped seeing good economic policymaking as a “you win/I lose,” zero-sum proposition.

That’s because ultimately, living within our means and restoring our economic competitiveness will benefit everyone in the state.

See Rathgeber's entire presentation, followed by a Q&A with CPI attendees, on CT-N.