Addressing a standing-room-only crowd at CBIA’s 195th annual meeting, Gov. M. Jodi Rell praised attendees for their ability to weather the economic storm during the last two years, calling Connecticut business leaders “the people who really make things work.”

CBIA’s annual meeting, which drew 450 guests, was held at the Hartford Marriott Downtown Hotel on Tuesday.

Fostering a Better Business Climate

In delivering what she called her “last speech before CBIA,” Gov. Rell provided a brief retrospective on some of the most important strides the state has made during her tenure.

“I think what we’ve done in the last couple of years is really try to foster an environment for our business community, a place where we could not only survive but thrive,” said Rell.

She added that her focus has been on keeping companies from being overburdened with government regulation and on offering opportunities for emerging industries in our state,  including energy, biomedical, healthcare, and smart transportation.

As part of this effort, the governor cited her work to help businesses obtain financing during the credit crunch brought on by the recession. “I formed a consortium of community banks to help us keep the lending going, to keep money available—and it worked.”

The governor expressed pride in the fact that Connecticut was the first state to commit funding to stem cell research—$100 million—and referred to the biomedical industry as “a great growth sector for our state.”

“We’ve seen the results of that commitment, and we’ve seen where it’s taken us,” she said. “We have two of the finest research universities right here in Connecticut, and they’re on the cutting edge of new technology and new patents, all using the stem cell research.”

Saying that “there is a lot to be excited about” in Connecticut, Gov. Rell spoke about the federal funding Connecticut just received to build a New Haven-to-Springfield rail line, a project that has been in the works for years.

“Now we’re at the point where we’re really getting the ball rolling,” she said, emphasizing that the project isn’t just about getting people from point A to point B but that “it’s about economic development along the way.”

She explained that the rail line would create jobs for people directly involved with the project as well as those who would benefit from the economic corridor it would create.

The governor also highlighted Connecticut’s preeminent role in the green energy industry, citing the fact that the state is a world leader in fuel cell development and number-one in promoting energy efficiency.

“And, sorry, California,” she said, “but our little Nutmeg State knows a little bit about growing green jobs. We’ve done a really good job there, and the EPA has ranked us among the best in purchasing green power.”

Recalling a goal she set in 2006, for 20% of the energy used or sold in Connecticut to come from renewable sources by the year 2020, the governor proudly announced that the state is already up to 17%.

She cited other examples of Connecticut’s lead role in renewable energy, including a plan to accommodate electric vehicles and a new law establishing more green-jobs training, investment in renewable energy, and business incentives for energy efficiency.

Proud Past, Bright Future

Noting that this year marks Connecticut’s 375th anniversary, Gov. Rell said that the clock factories, the textile mills, and the brass factories “are part of our precious past.”

But, she said, “there is a new landscape out there, and it shines. And I think it shines with bright opportunities—renewable energy, healthcare, smart transportation, and the greatest asset of all, the people of our state.

“We are a good state with good people, good opportunities, and I think that we’re headed on the right track. We’ve hit a bump in the road and a bump in the road in our nation, but we can survive this—and, in fact, we have.”