(Updated) One of the six Democratic candidates for governor outlined his plan to create jobs and grow the economy at a casual meeting with unemployed workers and entrepreneurs at Hartford’s CTWorks Center Tuesday.
“It’s an employers market,” Jean Blake-Jackson, who was laid off in August of 2009, told Ned Lamont.
Blake-Jackson, who was the director of the entrepreneur center at the Hartford College for Women for 21 years before the state budget crisis claimed her position, said a lot of employers want to know why we want to return to the workforce when we’re so near retirement.
“The younger generation has a lot more leverage,” Blake-Jackson said.
Blake-Jackson was one of four people at the meeting who had been let go by an employer after working the same job for more than 15 years.
“These folks spend most of their career at a job they thought they’d be at until they retired,“ Lamont said Tuesday. “We have stalled the job engine here in Connecticut.”
He said his jobs plan gets Connecticut back on offense.
Others in the room included Bruce Johnston, co-owner of Sunshine Laundry in Hartford.
The uncertainty in the state budgeting process is “keeping us from hiring,” Johnston said Tuesday.
Johnston whose Hartford business burned to the ground in 2008 has been talking with local officials about rebuilding, however, building a new building and paying more than $70,000 in property taxes isn’t something that’s feasible. At the moment, Johnston said the company is renting space and continuing its operations, while it searches for a location to purchase outside of Connecticut’s Capital City.
A Hartford cheerleader, Johnston said he would love to stay, but the numbers just don’t add up.
While Johnston isn’t looking to relocate outside of Connecticut, there are other employers in the state who are, including United Technologies Corporation which recently said “anyplace outside of Connecticut” is less expensive.
But Lamont doesn’t buy the idea that they’re leaving just because Connecticut is a high cost state.
“It’s not all about the money,” Lamont said.
“We spend $580 million per year on 102 initiatives administered by 24 separate agencies,” Lamont wrote in his Business Plan for Connecticut. “Our corporation tax credits exceed $300 million annually, 100 times what they were 20 years ago, yet we haven’t created a single net new job in those 20 years.”
“We don’t treat small and mid-size businesses very well,” Lamont said. “It’s not all about tax incentives, it’s about having a governor whose a partner.”
If elected governor, Lamont said he would accelerate the Department of Environmental Protection permitting process and establish a 24-hour phone and Web site where entrepreneurs can get help starting up or expanding their businesses. He also said each new business would receive a business advocate in charge of helping them get through all the necessary bureaucratic hurdles.
And he said if he catches wind that a company is considering downsizing or moving out of state “I will dispatch a SWAT team of business leaders and economic development specialists to make certain Connecticut keeps those jobs.”
“It’s the uncertainty that’s killing business,“ Lamont said. It‘s “less of an exact mix of taxes and spending.”
Lamont, a cable executive from Greenwich who ran for the U.S. Senate against U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman in 2006, will continue his conversation on jobs Wednesday at Giering Metal Finishing in Hamden.
Lamont is one of six Democratic candidates running for governor. The others include former Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy, Simsbury First Selectwoman Mary Glassman, Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi, Juan Figueroa former president of the Universal Health Care Foundation, and Waterbury Mayor Michael Jarjura.
Malloy, who is 10 points behind Lamont in the latest Quinnipiac University poll, sent out a statement Tuesday afternoon criticizing Lamont for not including a benchmarking system in his plan.
“It makes no sense that, to this day and despite repeated attempts by the Auditors of Public Accounts to get this policy changed, Connecticut still refuses to release a list of companies that have received state aid and their respective records on job creation,” Malloy said.
“That kind of practical review of how we’re using our resources is critical,“ Malloy said. “It’s something that I learned as Mayor, and it’s an example of what separates Ned and me when it comes to economic development: our experience.”
The top two Republican candidates vying for the gubernatorial nod have focused on solving the states budget crisis as opposed to the economy and jobs. During his first big policy speech Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele said he would not propose tax increases, while Republican frontrunner Tom Foley said he would cut $1 billion from the state budget.