It is so incredibly difficult to accentuate the positive in Connecticut. Doing so is akin to swimming upstream, climbing uphill, and skiing through a revolving door – combined.
In fact, when there is positive evidence staring us in the face, our Nutmeg reflexes kick in automatically. We shut our eyes, the better not to see the hopeful signs or indicators of progress.
Our default negativity is not without some basis, of course. At times, there is legitimately bad news. In other instances, we just do dumb stuff. Closing restrooms on highways seems an unwise and unwelcoming idea. Eliminating needed funding for individuals with disabilities seems short-sighted at best, cold-hearted at worst. No doubt, we each have our own examples at the ready for rapid recitation.
For those of us who’ve been adults in Connecticut for multiple decades, we’ve come to expect this. We can blurt out, unhesitatingly, what’s wrong, often adding why, if not for this or that, we’d be outta here. It almost seems embedded in the state’s verbal and attitudinal DNA.
However, for the younger among us, whether recent transplants or newly come of age natives, there’s a rebellion brewing. They kind of like what they see in this state, and they are increasingly finding their voice.
Exhibit A. A prominent article in the Sunday Courant recently, trumpeting the fact that a couple of millennials moved here from Portland, Oregon – and are intent on staying. The headline alone was, well, shocking, given what we’re predisposed to expect. Explained Jason Simms, “The No. 1 thing I like about living here is that I’m needed.” Darn right. He went on to praise Connecticut’s “collaborative environment” and “business community (that) is close-knit and friendly to newcomers.” Who knew?
He even mentioned the “rich history and vibrant culture in each little town” and “opportunity” that lay ahead in the cities. Yes, he must be from out-of-town. But he’s here now, with his wife, building two businesses and on the brink of starting a family and a future.
Just as you begin to mutter that his view is an aberration, along come others. The Hartford Business Journal featured a column by two local attorneys, Matthew Necci and Peter Meggers, pushing the premise that “Hartford is a good place for young professionals.” Admonishing the nay-sayers among us, they observed “we don’t sell our own community enough,” pointing out it is “home to some of the most innovative and dynamic employers in the nation.” Such positivity! “Talent,” they said, “is the last thing we are lacking as a community.”
And there’s more.
The summer edition of Connecticut Planning, a publication of the Connecticut Chapter of the American Planning Association, revealed a startling blend of realism and optimism in an article co-written by Kayleigh Lombardi, a policy analyst for the Partnership for Strong Communities, and Christine Schilke, communications director for the Connecticut Main Street Center:
“Bolstering the millennial generation with dynamic, connected communities is a good thing for older and younger generations alike, as amenities such as walkability, access to transit and a variety of housing options are beneficial to all of us.”
They added that “While our state clearly faces daunting budget challenges, there is hope. There’s growing consensus around the need to attract and retain young people, an increasing demand for information about what can be done and what’s working elsewhere, and a willingness to be innovative in our response.”
They’re not just talking. They are among the leaders of the statewide organization Young Energetic Solutions (YES), which devotes the time and talent of its members to effectuating the changes they foresee. How’s it going? “There is much positive progress in the state,” they say.
Similar organizations proliferate in Connecticut, not content to network but actively seeking collaborative actions that can improve communities and impact lives. Isn’t that at the heart of the “quality of life” often cited as a traditional (but disappearing) Connecticut value?
Millennials —born between 1980 and 2000 — have surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest living generation, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates. If you believe there is strength in numbers, millennials appear to have a number of strengths our state could use right now.
They believe in Connecticut. And they’re not shy about saying so.
Bernard L. Kavaler is Managing Principal of Express Strategies, a public relations business in Hartford, and a Baby Boomer.