Policy Institute: Cut Red Tape, Watch Cities Grow

Issues & Policies

One of the most striking themes of a recent study on how to economically revitalize Connecticut’s cities is how much could be accomplished simply by streamlining government.
According to the Connecticut Policy Institute’s Urban Policy Project, the two—cutting red tape and growing the local economy—go hand-in-hand.
In its report, the institute outlines ways to make Connecticut’s flagship cities strong again, with recommendations on economic growth, reducing crime, improving housing, and closing the state’s academic achievement gap.
They note that while other cities across the country that have seen similar manufacturing strength and decline have been pretty successful at job growth, the story’s not quite the same in New Haven, Hartford, Bridgeport, and Waterbury.
Poster child
Pittsburgh, says the report, “was once the poster child of post-industrial urban decline. But … since 1990 the city has grown more than 125,000 jobs.”
Also growing jobs in that time have been midsize urban areas such as Nashville, Charleston S.C., and Austin, Texas. Meanwhile, Connecticut’s foursome have lost a combined 60,000 jobs.
What should we do?
The policy institute recommends expanding existing tax breaks to more employers, providing customize workforce training “for any employer willing to locate in a Connecticut city,” reforming regulations, making the cities more livable,’ expanding either Tweed or Sikorsky Airport to spur economic growth, and creating small business incubators.
Those are all good ideas–and several hinge on breaking down government barriers.
Such as:

  • “Connecticut should revamp its enterprise zone program, which has unnecessarily restrictive eligibility requirements … “ [and] “ … an unnecessarily cumbersome application process.”
  • “Employers we interviewed reported that regulatory approval processes in Connecticut cities regularly take twice as long as equivalent processes in smaller Connecticut towns …”
  • “Connecticut has a large number of publicly and privately funded workforce training programs. But there is no centralized mechanism for measuring programs’ effectiveness, nor is there any system to link employers, training providers, and aspiring employees.”
  • “Connecticut’s small business support system lack[s] several key features that have made small business ecosystems successful in Nashville, Austin, Charleston, and Pittsburgh.”

Other cities have figured out what Connecticut still struggles with, says the institute.
Familiar refrain
“Regulatory reform has been a critical part of the successful urban jobs programs in other areas of the country. Pittsburgh has eliminated regulatory impediments to redevelopment of old industrial sites, among other reforms.”
It’s a familiar refrain from us, and from other organizations such as the Connecticut Institute for the 21st Century: Make government more effective, efficient, and affordable, and watch the economy grow.
Or as Governor Malloy told 300 business leaders at Connecticut Business Day last week, “You’re creating jobs, we’re just trying to help, and sometimes that means getting out of the way.”
We’ve seen the first fruits of progress in cutting red tape in Connecticut. Today, Gov. Malloy announced that the state’s Small Business Express program, for example, has now helped more than 1,000 Connecticut companies that are creating and retaining about 14,000 jobs for Connecticut residents.
And the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), and Department of Revenue Services, among others, have made notable gains in making it easier to do business in Connecticut.
Good businesses want to expand in Connecticut and they often favor urban areas. They want to grow jobs, create opportunities, and make investments that benefit their communities.
But there’s usually a window of opportunity to do that. And if entrepreneurs run up against bureaucratic walls or government indifference, then that window closes and business looks elsewhere.
The policy institute has some good ideas for discussion and implementation. Continuing to streamline state and local government would go a long way to make their ideas work.


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