Business First for Gov. Malloy on Day of Presidential Visit
Before he welcomed President Obama to Connecticut this Wednesday, Gov. Malloy started the day by addressing more than 200 business leaders from across the state who came to the Legislative Office Building for Connecticut Business Day 2014.
Speaking about boosting Connecticut’s competitiveness, the governor said he has focused on many factors that impact the state’s business climate—including state finances, energy, education, and regulatory reform.
Connecticut Business Day is sponsored annually by CBIA and the Connecticut Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives. This year’s event also featured a panel of legislative leaders, breakout discussions on top business issues, and the unveiling of the CT20x17 campaign to accelerate the state’s economic recovery and make Connecticut a top 20 state for business by 2017.
Trying to Help
Gov. Malloy said that state government is working to improve how it helps businesses. “You’re creating jobs,” he said, “we’re just trying to help.”
He said getting the state’s fiscal house in order is a top priority. “We’re going to hold spending in check,” he said, “and if we don’t, we’re not going to raise taxes.” The governor also said that the state’s long-term debt has been reduced by $11.6 billion during his tenure.
“I’m bullish on Connecticut,” said the governor, “because we’re winning battles for the first time.”
After the governor’s remarks, legislative leaders weighed in on how to improve Connecticut’s competitiveness. On the panel were Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams (D-Brooklyn), Senate Minority Leader John McKinney (R-Fairfield), House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz (D-Berlin), and House Republican Leader Larry Cafero (R-Norwalk).
Transportation was a topic of interest to the leaders. Sen. Williams said that Connecticut needs to have, and follow, a “vision for the future” in transportation—one that goes beyond “just fixing roads and highways” and includes expanding public transportation resources to rural areas of the state.
Sen. McKinney said the state should consider transportation infrastructure as an economic driver, not as a series of distinct projects. Doing so would ensure adequate resources to upgrade the Metro North rail line, which he called Connecticut’s most important transportation asset.
From the 1980s to the 2000s, said Rep. Aresimowicz, Connecticut was “asleep at the switch” and took its small businesses for granted. But that has finally changed, particularly with the state’s Small Business Express program that has helped more than 1,000 businesses who are “the backbone of our economy.”
“We need to create an atmosphere where all businesses can thrive,” said Rep. Cafero. The problem is, he added, “We claim [to] love business [at the Capitol], but pass laws that hurt you every time,”
CBIA President and CEO John Rathgeber, and Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce President Tony Rescigno introduced the CT20x17 campaign to improve Connecticut’s competitiveness and business climate.
“One of the reasons we decided to come forward with the campaign,” said Rathgeber, “was to offer people within the legislature and our communities a shared goal of making Connecticut one of the best places to do business.”
The CT20x17 campaign is a response to national business and economic rankings which, while acknowledging Connecticut’s strengths, have given the state low scores in key factors—such as business costs, infrastructure, fiscal strength, and business-friendliness. Rathgeber said the campaign is designed to turn those rankings around.
Using such annual rankings as CNBC’s “America’s Top States for Business” as benchmarks, said Rathgeber, will allow the campaign to “measure whether we’re moving ahead or back. And those rankings will “provide context for talking with policymakers on whether a [legislative] proposal would move us in the right direction or wrong direction.”
Rescigno described a recent meeting in the Elm City with officials who help out-of-state businesses find new places to locate. He said the officials told him that “We go by the numbers [rankings]. If the numbers don’t add up, we can’t recommend Connecticut.”
That’s why, said Rescigno, all Connecticut businesses “have to be a part of this campaign” to move the state up in national competitiveness rankings.”
Business leaders also broke into discussion groups to talk about state spending and taxes, regulatory reform, and labor and healthcare issues.
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