Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announces new jobs initiatives in Hartford on Monday. (DOUG HARDY / CTNEWSJUNKIE)

Criticized in the past for not focusing enough on growing jobs in urban areas, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy visited Hartford’s north end Monday to unveil plans to boost employment in Connecticut’s cities during his second term.

Malloy, who took over as governor with a state budget deficit of $3.67 billion and an economy barely beginning to bounce back, was able to get a bipartisan group of lawmakers to approve a jobs package in October 2011 that included loans for small and large businesses and some job training programs.

But urban lawmakers, who saw higher unemployment numbers in their districts, said the legislation wasn’t enough.

On Monday, on the front steps of the Faith Congregational Church on Main Street, Malloy touted his administration’s accomplishments less than two months before he is up for re-election, and said he’s ready to go further.

Malloy said that when he and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman took office, Connecticut was experiencing one of the worst recessions in a generation and had seen no net job growth for 22 years.

“Forty-eight states shared in the creation of 23 million jobs. We didn’t get any,” Malloy said. “Instead of pursuing the same failed strategies that had been pursued for the last 20 years, Nancy Wyman and I, we did something different.”

Malloy cited a combination of efforts, including investing in large employers to keep them in Connecticut, building up small businesses through the Small Business Express program, bringing in new industries like Jackson Laboratories, competing for jobs with other states, and investing in infrastructure projects “for the first time in decades on a large scale basis.”

Malloy also touted his administration’s successful advocacy for paid sick days and increasing the minimum wage.

Based on those efforts, Malloy said the state has added more than 60,000 new private sector jobs and now is seeing the lowest unemployment rate in almost six years. Further, in his first term Malloy said Connecticut has experienced the fastest job growth since the 1990s and has had the fastest job growth since 2010 in all of New England.

Malloy also said that Connecticut, over the last quarter, ranked first in the region in economic growth at 2.8 percent.

Malloy outlined his plan for his second term, should he win one, including:

  • Establishing a “human development corporation,” with a focus on the “neediest regions” in our cities. “I want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to get unemployed workers trained and into jobs, and that’s everyone in our communities,” Malloy said.
  • An expanded Small Business Express program with a special emphasis on urban areas, women-owned, and minority-owned businesses. “We’ve used this program to invest alongside over 1,200 companies, and that’s allowed us to create or retain a total of 14,000 jobs,” Malloy said. “We should expand this program to allow us to grow an additional 10,000 jobs.”
  • Lifting the cap on the Job Expansion Tax Credit program with a focus on small businesses, hiring unemployed veterans, the disabled, and others in urban areas.
  • Establishing a ConnectiCorps program, modeled after AmeriCorps, to partner in urban communities with not-for-profits to hire unemployed workers to improve their local communities.
  • Malloy suggested that the ConnectiCorps program should then be expanded to include the state’s largest employers, “so that they understand that if we get somebody through training, if we get somebody through a good job history of six months or 12 months, they need to step up and give that person a try. Give them a hand up. And that’s what we want to see accomplished.”

    The governor also pitched a plan to increase state contracting with minority-owned businesses.

    “There’s no better way to make sure urban people are employed,” Malloy said. “They’re going to hire people from the communities where they are based. We’re going to do that, including increasing substantially the amount of money that we did on a trial basis [for] bonding.”

    Malloy said his administration reshaped how companies get state work and increased the amount of state contracting that can be awarded through “less strenuous” approval processes.

    “But ultimately, we want to get some of these minority contractors to the next level, and the next level requires their ability to bond, something that is very difficult to do in the current environment unless you’ve had another big job before it and proven yourself,” Malloy said. “So we’re going to play a much larger role in making sure that minority contractors can in fact take the next step, can in fact get that bond for that big project to prove themselves and hire more people from urban environments.”

    Tom Foley’s campaign responded with a written statement from Foley spokesperson Mark McNulty:

    “This is just more of the same. Apparently 1 percent growth, one of the worst job recovery rates in the country, and higher taxes are good enough for Dan Malloy. It’s not good enough for Tom Foley, we can and will do better with a new direction for Connecticut.”

    According to the Labor Department, Connecticut has recovered 76,400 — or 64.1 percent — of the jobs lost during the recession.

    Pastor Steve Camp, who spoke briefly before introducing the governor, complimented Malloy for listening and responding with initiatives that “make sense” for Hartford, the city’s north end, and for Connecticut.

    “I want to commend him and his team for coming to Faith Church today to outline some new initiatives that will be helpful in our community and will help this community to come alive in some ways that it has been dormant for years and years and years,” Camp said.

    “We sat in his office and he listened to us about the problem of re-entry, of people coming out of our prisons into communities like this one with no jobs and no chance to get forward in their lives. He heard us when we talked about . . . minority contractors and the hiring of people who just need a chance in our community,” Camp said. “So we are very pleased that he has come up with these initiatives. We’re going to hold his feet to the fire, I will say, but we want you to know that he is trying and we applaud that today.”