A new “diagnostic” report takes a stark look at the challenges Connecticut faces when it comes to economic competitiveness.
The data-driven Connecticut Economic Competitiveness Diagnostic was presented to the state Commission for Economic Competitiveness earlier this month and outlines significant hurdles Connecticut needs to overcome to increase job growth.
The report, prepared by the Business Council of Fairfield County Foundation, is intended as a sort of starting point for the commission. Its goal is to identify potential themes for the commission to consider and to provide data-driven, fact-based information. It is not intended, according to the foundation, to be comprehensive nor make policy or strategy recommendations.
One of the main concerns highlighted in the report is that other states are “closing the gap” on Connecticut’s livability and cost advantages. Job creation by young companies here has not returned to pre-recession levels, Connecticut’s tax rates are higher than national averages and some other states’, and quality-of-life measures vary widely across Connecticut’s cities, according to the report.
Also, the state’s urban centers underperform other areas of the state on certain livability questions, such as whether residents are happy with where they live and whether they can find suitable employment.
The report also notes that while the state has gained jobs in food service, education, and healthcare, it has lost them in higher-paying sectors like construction.
All of the aforementioned trends, according to the report, “have created a new economic normal and pose challenges for the state’s competitiveness.”
At the same time, Connecticut continues to struggle with its population trends — people are leaving the state. Population growth here has been “negligible” and Connecticut continues to lose young, educated people to other states. Also, while the state has a lower poverty rate than the United States overall, Connecticut’s has been growing faster than the national rate.
Amid this backdrop, perceptions of the state’s governance and fiscal uncertainty are “hardening,” the report found. The state is perceived as having a “negative business climate,” according to the report, and discussions about Connecticut’s business climate are being shaped by fiscal fundamentals, negative national publicity, unpredictable governance, and a perceived lack of engagement.
The Connecticut Business and Industry Association, in a brief on its website, said state leaders must act fast in order to reverse the negative trends. Namely, CBIA wants legislators to approve a balanced budget.
“People and businesses need the confidence that this is the state in which they can put down stakes and build a future,” the association said. “There’s no time to waste; the end of this fiscal year is rapidly approaching. It’s time to act; time to fix our finances and fix our economy. The diagnostic report was a little painful, but offers hope for Connecticut’s people and future.”
Despite its challenges, Connecticut has a long history of strong economic performance, according to the report, which noted the state performs well in several key indicators, including median household income, productivity and per capita gross domestic product.
The diagnostic report is the first part of a broader effort to improve the state’s competitiveness. The next step, according to report’s authors, is to develop a strategy, followed by execution of that strategy.