By Marilyn Giuliano
Connecticut has lost jobs, businesses and young adults faster than nearly every other state, not only in this recession but for the past twenty years. Connecticut lost 156,000 jobs in the 1989-93 recession, and it took a decade to gain them back. As a state, we have experienced virtually no net job gains or business growth since 1989. A record number of Connecticut businesses shut down during 2008, and 7,000 small businesses closed in the first six months of 2009. We expect to lose 78,000 – 110,000 jobs from this current recession. On top of these sizeable job losses, a large percentage of our 18-to-24-year-old college educated young adults have left Connecticut seeking the kind of employment and housing opportunities that Connecticut cannot offer. Our state workforce is aging, our young workers are leaving, and Connecticut is transitioning from a manufacturing economy to a service economy. These trends threaten our quality of life, our prosperity and our economic sustainability.
In the face of these trends, Connecticut needs to mount an economic development campaign to attract jobs, entrepreneurs, employers and talented young people to our cities and towns. With this economic crisis comes opportunity. As one recent example, the legislature incentivized video production by offering industry tax credits to support local job producing initiatives in filmmaking. Connecticut retains the potential to once again be a leader in the financial services sector. As a state, we have the technological infrastructure to support high-tech precision manufacturing.
Any initiative to shape and direct Connecticut’s economic performance depends upon government and business policies and partnerships that create skilled jobs, incentivize entrepreneurs, and retain our pool of talented young workers. Historically, Connecticut is rich with innovation in manufacturing, aerospace engineering, and the insurance and financial services industries. But the high cost of doing business in Connecticut significantly diminishes our competitiveness. Any vision for improving Connecticut’s economic performance must include a targeted attention to housing affordability, strategic transportation investments, the age and education of our workforce, and taxation and regulation renovations that create a business supportive economic climate. While Connecticut is a leader in life sciences, biodiesel and alternative energy initiatives, we must focus on how to facilitate and encourage the movement of scientific and technological advances from the research laboratory to the marketplace.
Connecticut has the assets and creativity to actively reshape our state’s economic performance, and it is essential that we do so. Nothing less than our economic vitality is at stake.