BRISTOL - Some 30 people representing the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce and the New England Spring and Metalstamping Association went the state Capitol Wednesday to tell the legislators what their priorities are to make the state a more business-friendly environment.
CCCC President and CEO Cindy Scoville said Connecticut Business Day is an annual event that draws hundreds of business leaders from across the state.
“For the Central Chamber, the priorities are to create a business environment that encourages job growth; to deliver a balanced state budget; to champion the collaboration of municipal and educational resources, just to get the communities to take a look at what they can do collaboratively to save funding; and support our local community hospitals,” she said.
Gov. Dannel Malloy addressed the chambers and manufacturing groups, talking about how state spending increases have slowed to two percent per year while trying to catch up with neglected pension obligations, the state work force is now 10 percent smaller than when he became governor but is making use of technology to help deliver more services, and the state is seeing growth at Electric Boat and in the aerospace industry.
Malloy stressed that failure to properly invest in transportation improvements is an impediment to encouraging economic growth. “You shouldn’t have to guess how many hours it’s going to take to get from one place to another in Connecticut,” he said.
Scoville asked the governor if the state Department of Economic and Community Development has ever considered doing a marketing campaign to promote the manufacturing programs at the state’s technical high schools and colleges to get parents to talk to their kids about manufacturing careers.
Malloy noted that the economic development department doesn’t have as much of a budget as he would like for things like advertising.
However, he said that in his time as governor the state has grown from having just one community college offering an advanced manufacturing program to seven offering such a program, as well as Goodwin College.
“We have worked on upgrading our technical schools,” he said. “Some of them are better than others quite frankly, and the rest need to be brought along, particularly with respect to advanced manufacturing. One of the problems is they didn’t actually have the equipment necessary to train people on what they would use, particularly in the aerospace industry, so we’ve tried to address that.”
The bigger issue, Malloy said, “is for years everybody thought manufacturing would disappear, therefore we didn’t encourage people to go into manufacturing. Changing that mindset is probably a generational effort.”
The biggest selling point for going into advanced manufacturing is “within a reasonable period of time you could be making $90,000 to $120,000 a year,” he said. “That’s a career that’s worth having.”
Joe Brennan, president and CEO of Connecticut Business and Industry Association, also addressed the chamber and business groups to say he is “very, very bullish on Connecticut.”
The governor “has a lot on his plate this year” given the state faces a budget deficit, but he is making some tough decisions, he said.
“One of the most important things is the debate we’ll have this year around - what are the real priorities and obligations of state government? How are we going to fund those? And what are the real priorities and obligations of local government and how are we going to fund those?” Brennan said.
Susan Sadecki, president and CEO of the Main Street Community Foundation, which is a CCCC member, was very positive about the event at the Capitol.
“It’s important for people to know we’re the second largest chamber of commerce in the state and we are very in tune with the needs of our local businesses,” she said. “So we are here to support anything that we can to promote job growth and further advance opportunities for our local businesses. We want them to stay here in Connecticut.”
“I feel we have a great working relationship with our local legislators. We’ve never had an issue with a legislator returning our calls or listening to us and coming to our meetings,” she added.
State Rep. Whit Betts, R-Bristol, said he was grateful to see so many people from CCCC show up.
“I think it was the largest turnout of any of the chambers here,” he said. “They’ve been very engaged and their message is simple - they want us to do no more harm to the business community, so that businesses can operate the way businesses can and should do.”
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.