Manufacturing Businesses, Not Only GE, Being Courted to Move As Fewer Praise CT's Quality of Life

Connecticut’s state government has been working diligently to boost manufacturing and manufacturers in the state, but the latest statewide survey suggests there remain significant obstacles on the road to realizing the goal of growing and sustaining a vibrant manufacturing sector. Among manufacturers, 94 percent handle their production in Connecticut, according to the just-released 2015 Survey of Connecticut Businesses by the Connecticut Business and Industry Association and BlumShapiro. While the survey analysis describes that number as encouraging, it also notes that 28% have production facilities in other parts of the U.S., and 24% in other countries—“which means they may be more likely to consider expanding or shifting more of their production elsewhere.”cover

The report indicates that the “factors that drive site location include access to key inputs; proximity to suppliers and customers; access to skilled labor; cost of labor; occupancy costs; affordable energy; and where companies are in their life cycle (e.g., mature companies are often likely to disperse geographically to reduce costs).

Although the courting by Governors from across the nation of General Electric’s corporate management has garnered much media and political attention, it is certainly not the only company that is the subject of someone else’s attention.  The CBIA-BlumShapiro report said that one in three businesses surveyed have been approached about moving or expanding their operations to another state.

Of those, the analysis continued, “nearly one in four are planning on moving to that state, 29 percent are considering shifting significant production to another state within five years, and 31 percent are weighing expansion in another state within five years.aother state

Although the report shows that 63 percent of businesses surveyed showed a profit this past year—the best this survey has seen since 2006 - the report indicated that “a primary area of concern” is the expansion of businesses over the next five years, and whether that expansion will take place in Connecticut or elsewhere.

quoteWhether perception drives reality or reality is drives perception, the opinions stated by business surveyed are less than encouraging, according to the report.  Primary reasons cited for moving or expanding outside Connecticut are the state’s high costs (including taxes) and its “anti-competitive business environment,” reflecting an oft-stated CBIA viewpoint.  More than three-quarters say Connecticut’s business climate is subpar compared with other states in the Northeast, and the nation.

The report also noted the significant number of state companies that depend on other Connecticut businesses.  “The vast majority of companies surveyed (70 percent) are somewhat or highly dependent on larger Connecticut companies or businesses,” the analysis highlighted, “which raises concerns when tax hikes threaten to push large companies out of state.”

CBIA’s surveys consistently find that personal reasons also factor significantly in location decisions.  “Many business leaders point to Connecticut’s quality of life and the desire to work close to where they live as the main reason for locating and/or staying in-state. However, we are slipping here,” the report said.dependant

In a survey of Hartford-New Haven-Springfield businesses conducted earlier this year, quality of life—traditionally the number-one benefit to operating a business in this region— surprisingly emerged as less of a competitive advantage today.  In fact, there has been a steady decline in the percentage of company leaders citing quality of life as the greatest benefit of operating a business here: 47 percent in 2009, 43 percent in 2011, 40 percent in 2013, and just over a third (35 percent) in 2015.


Whittlesey & Hadley Joins BlumShapiro Among Nation’s Top 200 CPA Firms

Whittlesey & Hadley, P.C., one of the area's largest regional accounting firms, ranks #192 in the Inside Public Accounting (IPA) fifth annual ranking of the Top 200 public accounting firms in the United States.  It is the firms’ debut appearance on the industry ranking list. West Hartford-based BlumShapiro was the highest ranked Connecticut headquartered public accounting firm, ranking at #56, up from #68 a year ago.  BlumShapiro and Whittlesey & Hadley are the only Connecticut-based firms among the top 200.2014 inside

Inside Public Accounting (IPA), founded in 1987, is published by The Platt Group. The Platt Group publishes both the award-winning Inside Public Accounting newsletter and the award-winning National Benchmarking Report.

The top 10 firms – ranked by U.S. net revenue - include some well-known national names, and large regional firms not well known by businesses and consumers outside their regions.  The top 10 are:  Deloitte, PwC, Ernst & Young, KPMG, McGladrey, Grant Thornton, BDO USA, Crow Horwath, CliftonLarsonAllen, and CBIZ  & Mayer Hoffman McCan.  CohnReznick, which has a footprint in Connecticut (including a recent consolidation of suburban offices in downtown Hartford) ranked at #11.

Whittlesey & Hadley’s managing partner, Drew Andrews says, “We are pleased to see our firm join this prestigious list of growing CPA firms in the United States. This ranking represents our strategic plan to expand our professional services and talented team throughout the northeast.”

BlumShapiro was also named among the fifty “Best of the Best” by the publication, a category described as firms that “show strong growth and profitability, and rank high on numerous key metrics, they also demonstrate an enviable culture. These Best of the Best firms are at the top of their game.”accounting

“We are honored to be recognized for this prestigious award,” said Carl Johnson, BlumShapiro Firm Managing Partner.  “To be distinguished as one of the best firms … is a testament to the teamwork, leadership and vision of all employees at BlumShapiro,” said Johnson. BlumShapiro is the largest regional accounting, tax and business consulting firm based in New England, with offices in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

According to the publication, net revenue at Whittlesey & Hadley grew by 7.9 percent from the previous year; at BlumShapiro up 6.5 percent.

whittlesey“With more than 540 firms participating in the IPA annual Survey and Analysis of Firms this year, along with many CPA firm associations contributing to the search to identify the IPA 200, this (is) the definitive ranking of the nation’s largest public accounting firms,” said Kelly Platt, principal of The Platt Group, the publisher of IPA.

Ablumshapiromong the industry trends cited by the publication are tighter margins, leadership changes, globalization, new regulations, acquisition pressures, evolving technology, cultural shifts, fierce competition, and commoditization of services (firms struggling to differentiate in the marketplace).

Three firms earned positions in the Top 100 for the first time, and 12 firms – including Hartford’s Whittlesey & Hadley – debut on the Top 200 list.

Other industry trends, as highlighted by Inside Public Accounting:

  • Cultural shifts – Younger employees often have different motivations and expectations than their elders at the firm. Up-and-comers who have “the right stuff” aren’t willing to wait the traditional 12 to 15 years to become partner and will challenge the firm to re-think normal career paths.
  • Lack of diversity among partners – The ever-diversifying population – in age, ethnicity, language and gender – is not reflected in the makeup of the owners of accounting firms and change is glacially slow.
  • Work environment challenges – Technology makes it possible for professionals to work anytime, anywhere. Balancing the needs of the individual with the needs of the firm, colleagues and clients can be tricky.

The IPA 200 are also engaged in acquisitions to grow in size, scope and capability, with 21 mergers reported for the group last year, adding more than 200 staff and more than $22 million into the aggregate numbers of the group.





As CT Workforce Ages, Employers Look to Attract Young Workers, Seek State Policy Support

The good news:  three times as many Connecticut businesses say they are growing rather than contracting, innovation and investment in technology is strong and three-quarters of manufacturers surveyed say they are exporting. Those are among the lead findings in a survey of Connecticut businesses conducted by BlumShapiro and the Connecticut Business and Industry Association. While the 2014 Survey of Connecticut Businesses shows optimism that Connecticut’s business landscape continues to improve, there remain concerns about the economy and the ability to create jobs in Connecticut, as well as signs that the state’s workforce continues to get older. In fact, one in four respondents are facing a wave of retirements over the next decade, with at least 40% of their workforce aged 55 or older.CTbusiness survey

“Connecticut’s workforce is aging, with 53% of our respondents reporting that 20% or more of their workforce is 55 or above. There is much to be optimistic about in this survey, but the aging workforce is certainly a challenge we continue to face,” pointed out Joseph Kask, Office Managing Partner of BlumShapiro’s West Hartford office.

While 38% of companies offer flexible work hours, only 8% offer telecommuting. One in four respondents also has specific practices or policies designed to attract and retain younger workers, including internships, tuition reimbursement, high entry-level wages, apprenticeships, and school/college recruitment programs.  Many companies employ apprentices (34%), interns (57%), and temps (58%), and eight in ten companies (79%) plan to hire these workers for permanent positions.

The survey shows slightly greater anticipated demand for mid-level employees than entry level or line workers. Among businesses of all types, workforce demand through 2015 is concentrated on mid-level employees (33% of companies say this is their area of greatest demand) followed by entry-level employees (29%), line workers (28%), managers (8%), and executive leadership (2%).Other highlights of this year’s survey include:

  • 35% of businesses surveyed indicate they are growing; 11% indicate they are contracting.
  • 46% of businesses surveyed introduced new products or services in the past 12 months; 47% of them plan on introducing new products or services in the next 12 months.
  • Three-quarters of manufacturers surveyed are exporting.
  • 52% of businesses surveyed say the most important step policymakers can take to enhance business in Connecticut is lowering taxes; 24% say it is reducing regulations, and 11% say it is cutting government regulations.
  • 27% of businesses surveyed say technology is the greatest single investment, 23% say it is employee training, and 23% say it is property and facilities.

concern When asked how Connecticut should address the shortage of skilled workers, 32% of businesses surveyed say the state should reduce the cost of living, 28% say the state should support trade schools, 20% say the state should support education overall, and 20% say there should be incentive for training steady;

The industries included in the survey include manufacturing, professional services, construction, retail, hospitality/tourism, wholesale, insurance, finance, real estate and software/technology.  Nearly one-third of the respondents were in the manufacturing sector.

CBIA is Connecticut’s leading business organization, with 10,000 member companies.  BlumShapiro is the largest regional accounting, tax and business consulting firm based in New England, with Connecticut offices in West Hartford and Shelton.