CT Should Look to New York, Aging Workforce, Urban Centers to Rebuild Economy

Connecticut would be foolish not to take greater advantage of the fact that nearly one-third of the state is within the financial orbit of New York City as it looks to rebuild its economic strength – while not overlooking the potential for entrepreneurial activity across the state.

Those were among the lead suggestions of a panel of economists and entrepreneurs at the University of Hartford looking at job prospects for today’s 20-somethings, in a program sponsored by CT Mirror.

Daniel Kennedy, Senior Economist in the Office of Research at the state Department of Labor emphasized that the strongest economic growth in the state in the years to come will be in Fairfield County, and evidence of that trend is already present in the current economic recovery.

Wayne Vaughn, president of Hartford-based Fuscient, which he launched in 1997, said the state should “play to its strengths,” in looking to Fairfield County.  He said that New York City's immense economy "bleeds over into one-third of our state."  He also called on the state’s colleges and universities to step up efforts to match students with mentors in the business community, to improve their workforce readiness.

The state’s college graduates should not sell the state short, offered Katelyn Anton, Community Manager of New Haven-based Independent Software, and a key contributor to Whiteboard, a popular blog for the technology and entrepreneurial community in the state.  “Connecticut is one of the ripest locations in the world,” for start-up ventures, she said, panelnoting the growth of co-working spaces in New Haven, Hartford, Bridgeport, Manchester and other communities, and the numerous incubator opportunities that individuals “can tap into.”

Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA) economist and vice president Peter Gioia predicted that the state’s economy is “on the cusp of turning the corner,” noting that between 15 and 20 percent of today’s workforce will be retired within five years – creating job vacancies and opportunities for young people.  He predicted that as the workforce ages out of the market, the state’s workforce will need electrical line workers, plumbers, electricians, commercial loan officers, actuaries and financial planners, and some of that need is already apparent.

Gioia praised the state’s recent efforts to bolster the University of Connecticut and the state’s community colleges, underscoring the correlation between “where students go to school and where they get their first job.”  If students stay in the state for college, Connecticut businesses will ultimately benefit.

Kennedy said the state’s prolonged economic recovery is characterized by continued “demand deficient unemployment,” which is more structural than merely a reaction to the national downturn that began in 2008.  He indicated that even as some sectors are improving, many millennials remain underemployed -college graduates working in service, rather than professional, industries.

“More people are working, but they’re not making as much,” said Orlando Rodriguez, a senior policy fellow at Connecticut Voices for Children.  “For every job we lose in the financial industry, it takes eight and a half jobs in the restaurant industry.”

Rodriguez also raised a cautionary note, stating that Connecticut should be particularly concerned about young people in the state’s urban centers who do not attend college, and often are unable to obtain a first job. While statewide unemployment hovers around 8 percent, it can run as high as 40 percent among 18-24 year olds in Bridgeport and other urban communities. “Connecticut’s future,” Rodriguez said, “is in urban areas.”

Gioia was strongly critical of Congressional inaction on immigration reform, stating that the nation’s economy would be strengthened by a comprehensive policy.  “Immigrants are much more likely to start a business, and become net employers of Americans.”  He said the policy of educating foreign students, but not permitting them to then remain in the U.S., as “ridiculous.”  He also cited Canada as an example of a nation that has been more welcoming of immigrants, to the benefit of the nation’s economy.

Vaughn said that while his biggest challenge in doing business in Connecticut is retaining talent, the growth of technology in business transactions offers businesses here significant opportunities.  “Where your business is located doesn’t dictate who your customers are,” he said.

The discussion was the second of nine panels on a range of topics sponsored by The Connecticut Mirror to be held around the state in coming months.  It was moderated by Brett Ozrechowski, CEO-Publisher of the CT News Project, which operates CT Mirror.  Next month, discussions will be held  Nov. 7 at Fairfield University focused on measuring good teaching and Nov. 18 at the University of New Haven on the topic of the clean energy economy.

New Partnership to Encourage Focus on Workforce Skills Gap

A new partnership has been formed to enhance communication between members of the public and community leaders on important issues in the Capitol region, and public events to facilitate the conversation are already on the calendar for this month.

Working in collaboration, CT News Project (parent of CT Mirror), WNPR, and the Hartford Public Library, with the support of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, have launched the Community Information Hub for the Capital Region to increase opportunities for people to have their voices heard on issues affecting them and their communities.

The Community Information Hub will offer web-based and community-based forums and dialogues where concerned citizens can report and discuss issues they care about and work together towards solutions. The online resource will provide residents with a broader platform to share their perspectives and ideas for community action.

The Community Hub also will present and connect to data and other information on issues and sponsor public events.  In its first public event, the Community Information Hub will host a forum on the workforce skills gap in Connecticut on Tuesday, May 7, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Hartford Public Library.

The Hub will also offer people the opportunity to participate in a community conversation on the workforce skills gap and training programs on Saturday, May 18, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Hartford Public Library.

The Community Information Hub builds on the ongoing partnership between The CT News Project’s online news site, CT Mirror, and WNPR to collaborate on web and radio stories, cross mConcept image of the six most common questions and answers on a signpost.arketing, and to share reporters and other resources. Both operations are located in the same facility at 1049 Asylum Avenue in Hartford.  The project also integrates and expands on the Hartford Public Library’s experience in providing facilitated community dialogues through its Hartford Listens series.

Offered in collaboration with East Hartford-based  Everyday Democracy, these events will inform residents of the issues, and the dialogues will help residents develop action agendas. Recent community dialogues focused on adult learning and the special needs of children of incarcerated parents.

The hub project is supported by two civic engagement staff:

  • Heather Brandon serves as the director of civic media at CT News Project and WNPR, a new position responsible for efforts to promote civic engagement throughout Connecticut. Brandon will lead the partnership’s efforts to create a new civic media website, and will also develop and coordinate public issues forums and events. Brandon is a former freelance producer for Morning Edition, Where We Live, and The Colin McEnroe Show at WNPR.
  • Tricia Barrett serves as the project’s community dialogue coordinator at Hartford Public Library and is responsible for the planning and implementation of all aspects of community conversations as well as related activities in the Community Information Hub project. Barrett is the former educational services manager at the Hartford Courant.

“The formation of the Community Information Hub in partnership with the Connecticut News Project, WNPR and Hartford Foundation for Public Giving leverages our assets in new ways and puts the library at the center of an important community movement. We are already at the heart of the community, and civic engagement is at the heart of where the public library is going in the 21s century.”said Matthew K. Poland, chief executive officer of Hartford Public Library.

The Community Information Hub is supported by a three- year, $374,362 grant from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.

 “The Hartford Foundation supports the Community Information Hub partners’ goal of broadly engaging the community, reaching residents and organizations from throughout the region, including local schools, faith-based organizations and diverse nonprofit and community leaders,” said Linda J. Kelly, president of the Hartford Foundation.

To register for the workforce skills gap forum log onto: https://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/eventReg?llr=eco8pgdab&oeidk=a07e7adwjkh9a034b6f&oseq

To register for the community dialogue on the workforce skill gap log onto http://workforcedialogue.eventbrite.com/#