At the end of October, a special legislative session will be convened to focus on job creation. We commend Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the Legislature for their commitment to bringing economic growth and new jobs to Connecticut. To make the most of this opportunity, it’s imperative that the state capitalize on our growing green jobs sector. Energy, clean water infrastructure, habitat restoration and transit: together, these fields can spur real growth in Connecticut’s job market and make our state a national beacon.
It is no secret that Connecticut has recently emerged as a leader on energy issues by passing legislation aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, lowering residential electrical bills, and encouraging the implementation of energy efficiency improvements. We can build on these legislative successes by ramping up our investment in energy efficiency, as other states such as Massachusetts have already done. A 2009 study by Environment Northeast indicates that increasing our state investment to capture all cost-effective energy efficiency could produce up to 17,000 new jobs and reduce greenhouse gases by 134 million tons—a real economic and environmental win-win for Connecticut.
Our recent experience with Tropical Storm Irene dramatically underscored the need to invest, too, in habitat restoration and clean water infrastructure. With hundreds of miles of the state located on or near water, catastrophic flooding plagued areas of the state that were without adequate coastal wetlands and undeveloped riversides to buffer them from waves and high rivers. Moreover, millions of gallons of raw sewage discharged into our rivers and Long Island Sound because of inadequate and outdated sewage treatment plants. Increased investment in water treatment projects and coastal restoration would not only help protect us in future storms but also create between 8,000 and 10,000 new jobs—and that’s this year and next, not ten years from now. Lower-cost alternatives to clean water infrastructure, like green-infrastructure and low-impact development stormwater management strategies, would create new jobs here in Connecticut, too.
Investing in Connecticut’s transportation infrastructure will also create both short- and long- term jobs. Having already committed to the New Haven – Springfield Corridor and the New Britain – Hartford Busway projects, we can expect to see the creation of thousands of jobs related to the two projects within several years. However, we need to do more to address the need for jobs now. An investment in public transportation capital and operations would create thousands of jobs—almost 36,000 for every billion invested—and would generate hundreds of millions in tax revenues.
All of these green investments would put our engineers, planners, builders, manufacturers, construction workers, landscape architects, greenhouse nurseries, and infrastructure businesses back to work. However, the benefits extend beyond just jobs. Increased investments will boost tourism, create new and expanded recreational opportunities, and support an influx of new businesses moving into the state—and providing increased opportunities for the valuable small and large businesses already creating jobs in Connecticut. These investments would ensure that our beaches and shellfish beds remain open, connect our workers to convenient, accessible transportation, significantly improve our air quality, and lower our electric bills.
The creation of green jobs does not mean relying on a “secret sauce” but rather a sustained commitment to a tried and true recipe for economic growth and job creation. That recipe is built on short- and long- term strategies and coordination of workforce development and support. It focuses on making Connecticut the right place to site and grow a business that will profit in the green sectors of the American economy. t relies on public, private, and government partnerships that align state policies and leverage public sector finance with private sector capital.
This is not a new strategy, but one that we need to step up in order to grow Connecticut’s economy. With the potential for an influx of thousands of short-term jobs and sustained growth of long-term jobs, expanding our green jobs sectors should be at the forefront of discussion during the special jobs session.
Donald Strait is the executive director of Connecticut Fund for the Environment in New Haven, and Stewart Hudson is the president of the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation in New Haven.