Moving Connecticut Up
Connecticut’s largest business organization today urged lawmakers to work together and use the 2014 General Assembly session as a foundation for boosting the state’s national economic rankings.
In releasing its priorities for the 2014 legislative session, the Connecticut Business & Industry Association called for a multiyear campaign designed to improve the state’s business climate rankings and strengthen its economy.
“State policymakers at all levels must collaborate in pursuing opportunities to nurture our many strengths and build a brighter economic future for everyone in Connecticut,” said CBIA president and chief executive officer John R. Rathgeber.
“And it’s critical that all of us—elected officials, businesses, employees, and residents—come together and embrace the goal of moving the state into the top 20 across a number of national economic rankings by 2017.”
Rathgeber said that in recent years, the state ranked poorly in many nationally recognized independent economic reports, including CNBC’s Top States for Business and Forbes’ Best States for Business.
“Those rankings highlight Connecticut’s competitive weaknesses and contribute to an overall negative perception of the state, making it very difficult to attract the types of private sector investments we need to build a strong, vibrant economy,” he said.
“We must address those weaknesses. If we don’t commit to improving our competitiveness, businesses will look to other states to invest, grow, and create jobs, further shortchanging our economic recovery.”
While Connecticut made progress recently in a number of key areas, its economy continues to lag the national recovery and the economies of much of the region.
“This is not just a business issue,” said Joe Brennan, CBIA senior vice president for public policy. “If we’re going to add jobs, create more opportunities for people, and generate tax revenues to pay for necessary government programs, we must start laying the groundwork now.
“That starts with resolving the state’s long-term fiscal issues. We’ve made some progress—now it’s time to accelerate that progress.”
CBIA released a series of recommendations for boosting the state’s national economic rankings, built around six core steps:
- Start. Tackle the biggest challenges: the state budget and long-term liabilities, business costs, regulatory climate, and transportation infrastructure. Continue making progress in education, energy, environmental regulations, and supporting small business.
- Build. Capitalize on our strengths. Connecticut is home to diverse, world-class economic base industries, including advanced manufacturing, healthcare, financial services, and bioscience. We have a deep, productive talent pool and an ideal location for reaching the world.
- Choose. Adopt positive solutions. Walk away from those that are not, weed out legislative or regulatory proposals that harm job creation and the state’s economy, and put our collective strength toward productive ideas.
- Change. Lawmakers should work with their colleagues, listen to constituents, and recommit to making the economy an immediate priority. That will attract and grow the types of businesses that provide good, well-paying jobs and excellent benefits, and support their communities.
- Measure. Set higher performance standards for state government. Review progress; increase accountability; align agencies and departments and programs and services; and communicate results.
- Commit. Make these steps a priority throughout all aspects of state government.
Rathgeber said national economic reports typically give Connecticut high marks for its quality of life, education, technology and innovation, and access to capital.
Those same reports, however, usually rank the state toward the bottom in other key areas, including economic climate, business costs, infrastructure, and regulatory environment.
“Meeting this goal means a lot of hard work and some tough decisions,” he said. “By demonstrating significant annual progress, Connecticut’s economy can break into the top 20 states, just as Massachusetts has done.”
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