Acquiring and developing small businesses is the critical to job sustainability and growth in Connecticut says Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Catherine H. Smith.
“In general small business is the big draw of jobs, not just here in the state, but across the country,” Smith told a room full of state officials Tuesday.
It’s an area Connecticut needs to improve upon.
According to Smith Connecticut has a strong, diverse base of big businesses, but lags behind other states when it comes to companies with 10 to 100 employees.
“We need to have a critical mass of startup companies,” said Smith.
When it comes to jobs that have 500 or more employees Connecticut is ranked seventh in the country in terms of business creation and growth, while jobs with 10 to 99 workers ranks 44th in the country and those with two to nine employees ranks 34th, said Smith.
She said one of the first steps to attracting and keeping serial entrepreneurs is more collaboration within the state.
The revenue and job recreation from the technology sector, especially green technology, could be considerable, said Smith.
Another move in towards collaboration is renovations to the University of Connecticut Health Center and John Dempsey Hospital in Farmington, which includes plans to help put the state in the forefront of the bioscience industry.
The revamping of the hospital is anticipated to create 3,000 jobs each year from 2012 to 2018 and 16,000 permanent jobs by 2037.
“A renovated, expanded UConn Health Center is something I think is critical to the economic revival of central Connecticut, and it would clearly benefit the state from a public health standpoint and from an education standpoint,” said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in a May 17 press release.
“Stem cell research is a great foundation and development and I believe it’s a start of a new collaboration between higher institutions. Yale, Wesleyan, and UConn all participate in our stem cell effort,” said Smith.
Collaboration such as the state’s plans for UConn is not all Smith has in mind – she also spoke about turning Connecticut into a state consisting of a predictable regulatory environment.
State agencies take too long to get responses from, said Smith. “We have to find ways to do things more efficiently.”
She said the numerous numbers of steps to go through in order to start a business in Connecticut needs to be changed.
“Connecticut doesn’t promote itself to business,” Smith said.
Connecticut’s education system and location, close to New York City and Boston, makes it very appealing to employees, said Smith. Her first goal is to do a better job of attracting talent to the state. “Other states are out there very actively recruiting.”
She said the first two businesses she visited had been visited by officials from other states trying to lure them away from Connecticut.
Aside from attracting new businesses, a major priority is to grow and enrich the already present talent pool by motivating and getting them engaged, said Smith. “I think we have the tools now to make sure we develop that talent.”
“We are not necessarily holding onto and keeping young talent in Connecticut,” said Smith. “Some of our cities are actually losing talent in that post-college say 25 to 30 year olds.”
Part of Smith’s plan, or draft of a plan, to keep talent in the state is to build more vibrant neighborhoods with better quality of housing at a range of prices.
“Your best costumer is your existing costumer,” Smith said.
Malloy will be touring 30 companies this summer with Smith as he prepares for a special session on jobs this fall.