In 2008 while working in the private sector I was guiding a small company through a major expansion. The company offered high end service and retail products that were under tremendous strain from the national economic recession.
A shopping center where we were set to launch our newest location had filed for bankruptcy, and several national brand retail tenants either pulled out of the center or were threatening to close their doors over the next quarter.
Our business was at a crossroads.
Connecticut’s state lawmakers in many ways are facing the same difficult decisions that once stared in the face of that small, yet ambitious, company — decisions about how we meet our fiscal obligations, deliver necessary services and maintain the high quality of living standards that have become synonymous with calling the Nutmeg State home. Perhaps most importantly, what difficult decisions must be made today in order to enjoy the prominence we all desire for tomorrow?
In 2008, we made a calculated decision that was right for us. We went all in. When other companies cut their advertising and marketing expenditures, we doubled up ours. As others expressed growing concern for the economic climate, our business became the voice of optimism openly speaking to all the opportunities that lie ahead. Every decision that was made during this difficult period was analyzed by weighing the economic reality of the moment with the goals and vision we had for the future. The result: a thriving business that has never closed a single door but instead continues to grow and offer excellent career opportunities almost eight years later.
While I miss those I left behind, my family and I love Connecticut and are extremely grateful for the opportunity afforded us here. Today, I live in the small town of Bethany and work in New Haven.
New Haven affords me the opportunity to put a roof over my children’s heads, save for retirement, own a car and have a small piece of the American Dream. When I go to New Haven I drive on the city’s streets. I am kept secure by the city’s public safety officials. I drink from the city’s water and utilize their sewer system. I enjoy the amenities of the city including grabbing meals from a variety of my favorite urban restaurants.
When interviewing for this position as an out of state applicant, I had to make multiple trips to the city, staying in various hotels. As a result of all the things I have been afforded by the city of New Haven, I’ve paid a variety of taxes including taxes on the income I earn. Taxes on products and services I utilize. Taxes at the gas pump and even taxes on the hotel occupancy utilized throughout my recruitment process. Yet a whopping $0 of this tax revenue is dedicated directly to the city of New Haven.
I love living in the beautiful rural community of Bethany. I also understand that I along with many others who are blessed by the benefits of Connecticut small town life, are able to enjoy this benefit because of the economic and other opportunities afforded in urban centers like Bridgeport, Hartford, Waterbury, and New Haven.
Policymakers must understand that any and all efforts to put the state’s fiscal house in order must not put a further strain on Connecticut’s economic hubs. To do so will only further erode future revenue receipts and will result in a race-to-the-bottom mentality.
Instead, now is the time to invest in our urban centers as the areas that can and will drive Connecticut to a brighter economic tomorrow. This investment must be much bigger than the traditional “Hold Harmless” approach. Just as I enjoy the many amenities I receive daily in New Haven, the city should receive a direct return from me. Diversifying our revenue system, particularly in the urban center environment, will afford the economic drivers of Connecticut the ability to grow and prosper. It is this type of growth and prosperity that can drive the entire state forward.
It is abundantly clear that New Haven, along with Bridgeport, Hartford, Waterbury, and the other regional urban centers across Connecticut support their surrounding communities and the state as a whole as service centers, cultural hubs and employment nuclei.
Despite their numerous and ongoing challenges, these cities have much to offer Connecticut residents and are crucial to the success of the state as a whole. As in a marriage, central cities and their surrounding suburbs are linked together “for better or worse.” The reputation and viability of the entire metropolitan area is shaped by public impressions of the central city. Allowing the central city to decay affects the entire metropolitan area.
Despite state budget woes, we cannot allow any of Connecticut’s urban centers to flounder. Strong city hubs will yield critical regional statewide benefits for years to come.
Joe DeLong is the Executive Director of CCM, which is Connecticut’s largest nonpartisan, statewide association of towns and cities, representing 158 member municipalities. CCM’s goal is to improve everyday life for every Connecticut residents by sharing best practices and objective research to help our local leaders govern wisely. CCM advocates at the state level for issues affecting local taxpayers, and pools its buying power to negotiate more cost-effective services for communities.
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