Business Breakfast Speakers Emphasize Public-Private Partnerships in Successful Economic Development
The overarching message from CT Department of Economic and Community Development’s Glendowlyn Thames and AdvanceCT’s Peter Denious is that we don’t give ourselves enough credit in Connecticut. Speaking at the Chamber’s February 20 Business Breakfast, they shared the optimistic perspective that is shaping an upcoming economic development strategy.
“We don’t really focus on the good and how we take that good and those opportunities and leverage that to lead with our strengths,” said Thames. She highlighted some statistics. Connecticut is ranked fifth in the nation for quality K-12 education; comes in as the seventh safest state; and holds the rank of third best overall healthcare in the nation. For workforce talent, the state ranks as the sixth best for women, the fourth most educated workforce, and the third state with the most advanced degrees. Connecticut, situated along the northeast corridor, is located within 500 miles of 30% of the nation’s GDP and jobs.
Glendowlyn Thames, CT Department of Economic and Community Development
A Public-Private Approach to Engaging Businesses
Partnering with the private sector on a new approach to business recruitment and retention is a priority. “Our business leaders are our best ambassadors and advocates for growing our economy,” said Thames.
Building on this foundation, Thames outlined five pillars of the current administration’s approach, beginning with fiscal stability, spurring businesses’ confidence in predictability and tax certainty as well state reinvestment in infrastructure while controlling debt. The pillars include using technology to streamline government, addressing workforce needs, and implementing a comprehensive transportation plan. Finally, a comprehensive growth strategy will be unveiled soon, informed by all stakeholders through a public private partnership with AdvanceCT.
Denious echoed Thames’ heralding of Connecticut’s strong assets, saying its largely a matter of communicating those advantages. Through convening business leaders, AdvanceCT is looking to discover opportunities and implement solutions to challenges encountered in the state.
According to Denious, the economic action plan employs effective strategies from other states and best practices to lay out a road map for Connecticut’s economic development. Principle themes include supporting technological innovation; developing vibrant, livable communities; and reviewing regulations to be more business friendly.
Making Connecticut More Business Friendly
“We need to send a signal to other states that we are looking out for businesses, particularly small businesses,” said Denious. “What can we do, what lever can we pull to address either our regulatory framework or any other parts of the friction that businesses face here in Connecticut? Then we need to get out there and broadcast it.”
Initiatives like the “digital front door” that allows businesses to conduct more of their interaction with the state electronically are part of improving the experience in the state.
Connecticut is ranked as one of the least business-friendly states, but Denious pointed to some misperceptions that lead to that characterization. For example, the state’s corporate income taxes—perceived as high–are average compared to other states. Changing those perceptions will be essential to recruitment and retention.
“We have to market it to ourselves first,” said Denious. “I’m not sure if we polled the room there would be wide agreement on what we are selling as a state. What is our value proposition? Then we need to get out and talk about that much more aggressively.”
Peter Denious, AdvanceCT
Thames shared information on legislative priorities in line with the changing approach to supporting business development. The administration is advocating for shifting the economic incentives performance-based system, which Thames noted would be low risk for taxpayers and businesses. The administration is putting forward a 25% rebate on payroll withholding costs for companies adding 25 jobs.
The Small Business Express program is shifting as well, moving away from lending to a loan guarantee program in a partnership with private lenders. “We shouldn’t be in a position where were we’re competing with the private, but partnering better with them,” said Thames. The DECD can focus limited resources on market gaps in traditionally underserved communities and distressed areas where entrepreneurs do not have the same access to capital.
For more coverage of the Chamber’s Business Breakfast with CT Department of Economic and Community Development’s Glendowlyn Thames and AdvanceCT’s Peter Denious, see the articles below:
February 20, 2020, “Osten pushing for Norwich Hospital property cleanup funds” The Day. Article by Brian Hallenbeck.
February 21, 2020, “State Officials Push Business Recruitment, Public-Private Partnership at Chamber Breakfast” CT Examiner. Article by Christopher McDermott.