I read with great concern and disappointment a recent article that appeared in the Sunday Stamford Advocate (and affiliated papers) on 1/8/17 entitled “New Jobs are job No. 1.” As a business owner, business leader and one connected with hundreds of businesses in the state and the region, I can comfortably say that many of the perceptions stated by the various elected officials quoted in this piece are categorically false and demonstrate how out of touch many in elected office in Hartford seem to be.
To be clear as a state when it comes to job growth, we are NOT on a positive trajectory, and this is not an issue of perception, but instead a cold reality. Fairfield County in particular has no specific growth industry, not since 2007. We have a changing demographic in terms of residents, but no one in state government seems to want to acknowledge this or learn more about who is moving into Connecticut.
The new population makes less than those moving out, rent vs. buy, and all of this is heavily contributing in a negative way to our lower tax revenue numbers. We have major issues tied to cost of living and transportation in the county, all of which are contributing to more employers hiring people on a remote work basis from elsewhere, which is then contributing to the ongoing 30+percent vacancy rate in commercial office space. These are real indisputable issues. Thousands of jobs remain open throughout the state because employers cannot find the right talent to fill those roles, and the state is not doing enough to help solve this issue.
In spite of these challenges, and in spite of a pending $1.5 billion deficit in the upcoming budget, the state continues to somehow manage to find the money to pay off the largest of employers to either come or stay, all while allowing for programs for the rest of the business community, like the JET program, to expire and go unfunded past 2014, with no other viable and aggressive and creative job growth programs of note to replace it as a way to continue to help stimulate job growth for those over 300,000 other businesses.
This accurate picture is in no way indicative of a positive trajectory, and these are not perceptions (as was implied in this article) but instead are facts.
If the state’s leaders are truly committed to stimulating job growth then a plan – any plan – needs to be formulated and implemented. It’s time to get out in front of real businesses in the community to find out what they need and then develop a plan to meet those needs. It’s also time to help ALL businesses vs. just the largest. Finally, it’s time to take inventory of who we are as a state in terms of residents, business types and similar. Connecticut is still operating based on who we WERE, and that is largely why we can’t keep our financial house in order.
David Lewis is Chief Executive Officer of OperationsInc.