Opinion: How to fix CT’s business friendliness

Jobs and the economy go hand in hand. When companies hire employees, they create new jobs. In turn, those jobs help the companies and our economy to expand. But in recent years, Connecticut’s policies have stifled business growth and Connecticut has dropped from 24th to 39th in business friendliness in the most recent CNBC/CBIA survey in June.

Burdensome regulations and high taxes are the driving force behind our unfriendly business climate and the resultant lack of jobs. As governor, I will focus on removing impediments for new businesses and expanding our existing small businesses, which provide half of all the jobs in Connecticut.

Connecticut’s tumble from 24th to 39th in business friendliness was based on the following problems, many of which can be immediately improved with the right actions and policies:

• Bottom five in the nation in job growth
• Bottom five in the nation in regulation
• Bottom five in the nation in taxation
• 270,000 fewer jobs in 2022 compared to 2007
• Unbalanced economy with most new jobs entry-level without advancement

Connecticut’s unbalanced economy with most new jobs entry-level without advancement is the most critical issue to address, and Connecticut’s worst-in-the-nation achievement gap is at the root of the problem. The gap is a jobs issue as well as an education issue and closing the education achievement gap is at the top of my economic and education agenda. To expand Connecticut’s economy, there is no greater need than developing an educated and productive workforce to help our companies grow.

For people who do not choose or are not able to go to college, we must provide more opportunities in apprenticeships, certificate qualifications and trade schools for people to move into rewarding and profitable careers. Apprenticeships and trade schools will help expand technology and increase manufacturing and will provide the spinoff jobs that technology and manufacturing provide.

Connecticut’s innovative and entrepreneurial past should direct us towards our future. We are good at making things and pioneering the next big thing, but less suited to making widgets cheaper than anywhere else in the world. That’s why we must increase our investments in new and emerging technologies through entities like Connecticut Innovations, which provides venture capital and other support for bioscience and IT startups, early-stage businesses and nonprofits.

There are many other common-sense solutions for changing the trajectory of Connecticut’s business climate that I would pursue as governor:

• Reduce property taxes, which hit the small-business community and the working poor and middle class the hardest of all taxes. They go up the most in poorer and denser communities, exacerbating the issues of low wages and lack of mobility.
• Simplify regulations and streamline administrative activities — we need to simplify the formulas for Payment in Lieu of Taxes and the Education Cost Sharing model to make them fairer and more comprehensible so that towns can accurately budget.
• Eliminate business personal property taxes and motor vehicle taxes — these are the most critical contributors to Connecticut’s bottom-five ranking in cost of living and a major cause of young people and retirees fleeing the state.
• Invest in manufacturing and technology businesses — each job creates an additional five better-paying jobs and for every dollar spent, $2.74 is added to the economy.
• Modernize infrastructure with integrated ports, rail and highways — moving goods to and from the state is critical to the supply chain and makes Connecticut much more competitive for businesses that bring in the higher-paying jobs.
• Establish a state co-sponsored marketplace for matching high school and college graduates to actual jobs, eliminating the job-seek gap for young and old.
Connecticut has a proud manufacturing and technology heritage, abundant intellectual resources and a skilled workforce. But decisions by government matter and they affect the outcomes of many things including business. The good news is that the pieces are in place for Connecticut to climb back up the business friendliness rankings — and there is nothing wrong with our state that strong leadership and smart, forward-looking decisions can’t fix.