Improving the region's manufacturing base and retaining young workers are the top priorities for Northwest Connecticut businesses, according to a new survey released today.
The 2018 Survey of Northwest Connecticut Businesses, produced by CBIA and the Northwest Connecticut Chamber of Commerce, also found that despite challenges, 29% of businesses report growth in their workforce, up four percentage points from the 2016 survey.
In addition to improving the area's manufacturing base (32%) and retaining young workers (21%), regional collaboration as a means of attracting greater business investment was also cited as a top priority (20%).
As in previous surveys, the region's proximity to New York, Boston, and Springfield ranked as the primary asset for businesses (28%) followed by the environment (26%), north-south highways (10%), active local banks (7%), and a supportive chamber of commerce (6%).
Business leaders were also asked what should be the top priority for Connecticut's next governor and General Assembly.
Thirty-nine percent said cutting government spending and reforming the state employee retirement system should be the main priority.
That was followed by balancing the state budget and fiscal stability (25%), economic growth and improving the state’s business climate (16%), lower taxes (14%), and education (1%).
"The survey provides valuable data which will assist in developing key focus areas for our state and our region," said John Janco, president and CEO, Torrington Savings Bank.
"Connecticut's future economic growth is contingent on lowering business costs, which will help promote growth and incent our young workforce to stay in our region."
Forty percent of area businesses say their biggest workforce problem is finding suitable applicants for open positions.
Other challenges include unprepared applicants or applicants who fail pre-employment screenings (18%) and an inability to meet candidates’ salary and compensation expectations (17%).
In addition, over half of Northwest companies report challenges finding and retaining young workers (56%).
Firms also feel pressure to increase wages, benefits, or both to address this concern.
When asked why it's difficult to find young workers, most cited the state's high cost of living or competition from other employers, particularly with wages and benefits.
Other responses varied greatly, including an inadequate applicant pool, young people not pursuing technical education opportunities, lack of work ethic, and not wanting to live in the area.
Three quarters of respondents are taking numerous actions to attract and retain young workers.
Key initiatives include adding employee engagement and recognition programs (28%), providing flexible work schedules (25%), giving tuition reimbursement (18%), and adding flexible time-off policies (17%).
The 2018 Survey of Northwest Connecticut Businesses was mailed and emailed in September and October 2018 to over 1,600 businesses throughout Northwest Connecticut. CBIA received a response rate of 7.9% and a margin of error of +/-8.7%.
The survey was sponsored by the Chamber Insurance Trust, Pequot Health Care, Torrington Savings Bank, and the Northwest Regional Workforce Investment Board, with additional support from Bantam Wesson, Conquest, Dymax, Litchfield Bancorp, Northwest Community Bank, O&G Industries, and Sharon Hospital.
CBIA is Connecticut's largest business organization, with thousands of member companies, small and large, representing a diverse range of industries from every part of the state. For more information, please email or call Meaghan MacDonald (860.244.1957).