Business Day: ‘Focus on Jobs, Growing the Population’
For the record crowd of business leaders, legislators, and elected officials, Connecticut Business Day was a timely opportunity to connect and engage on critical issues facing the state’s economy.
“Today is your shining moment for the business community to be here in Hartford,” CBIA president and CEO Chris DiPentima said at the April 4 event at the Bushnell Performing Arts Center.
DiPentima urged attendees to focus on the biggest challenge to the state’s economic growth—the worker shortage crisis, the target of CBIA’s Transform Connecticut policy solutions.
“Everything we do must have a lens for whether this policy or program that we’re talking about, will add jobs or grow the population,” said DiPentima.
“If everyone in Hartford and the state of Connecticut thinks that way, we grow the Connecticut economy working together.”
‘Heartbeat of Our Economy’
Small businesses, which represent 99% of Connecticut employers, were heavily represented at the event, as Emily Wiper, New England vice president and general manager of Business Day sponsor AT&T, noted.
“It is truly small and mid-sized businesses that are the heartbeat of our local communities and economy,” she told the 420-plus attendees.
“You don’t get an opportunity to always advocate for yourself, for your company, for your industry,” said Marion Manufacturing president Doug Johnson.
State Rep. Holly Cheeseman (R-Niantic), one of 84 state lawmakers who signed the Transform Connecticut policy pledge, said “it’s incredibly important to know what’s going on with the businesses of our state. They are the engine of our economy.”
“There is no substitute for hearing exactly what it’s like on the ground for a business,” added Rep. Maria Horn (D-Canaan), co-chair of the legislature’s Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee, who also signed the policy pledge.
The standing-room only event was set against the backdrop of recent positive news for the state’s economy.
The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis’ latest GDP report showed Connecticut’s economy grew 2.4% in 2022—17th best in the country.
“That’s a direct reflection of our amazing businesses and their ability to adapt and innovate,” DiPentima said.
“Because I don’t think at the start of 2022 anyone would have believed we would be 17th in the country in GDP with 100,000 job openings at the start of 2022 and 100,000 job openings at the end of 2022.”
However, Connecticut’s job growth over the last 12 months ranks 44th in the US, while the population grew just 0.1% in 2022, 31st among all states.
And finding a way to address the workforce crisis was top of mind at Business Day.
“Clearly workforce development is the issue of the day that needs to be focused on and improving our businesses’ ability to retain and get employees,” said Sen. Lisa Seminara (R-Avon), who signed the Transform Connecticut pledge.
Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Alexandra Daum and state Comptroller Sean Scanlon echoed that message.
“Bringing in people to the state at all costs is the number one goal,” Daum said. “We need people to fill those 100,000 jobs.
“We want people to come here obviously but we want people to think about moving their business here.”
Scanlon highlighted the impact of the state’s fiscal guardrails on the economy, calling the 2017 bipartisan budget reforms “the single most transformative thing in 20 years we’ve done to get on the right path.”
“We need to stay the course that we are on right now because it’s working,” he said.
“And what’s working to get Connecticut’s economy going in a better direction is making sure that our budget is in a good place.”
Scanlon said it’s important for people to see business and government working together to “find solutions to the problems that are making it harder for you to do what you want to do as a business.”
That spirit of advocacy was shared by many at the event.
“An event like this is incredibly important to remind legislators and key members of the community that small business is the backbone of our country and our state,” said Stifel Marcin partner Christine Marcin.
“It’s where the industrials, where the small companies all come and advocate for policies that are going to make the state more robust.”
From tax relief, to healthcare, housing, workers’ compensation, and employment and business law issues, the General Assembly is considering a long list of bills that impact employers.
“We want to hear from our legislators and CBIA as to what’s coming down the pike, what’s important and also what’s good and what needs to be improved,” said Blue Back Health principal Eric Thompson.
CBIA vice president of public policy Eric Gjede stressed the importance of businesses advocating for themselves.
“You have some control over the outcome of every one of these items,” he said.
“If every person at this event today made a phone call to a lawmaker on just one of these items, it would have a huge impact and help make Connecticut a better place for businesses.”
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