Hartford Region Ranks 49th Among 50 Largest Metropolitan Areas in Charitable Giving

The average percentage of income given to charity by residents of the Hartford metropolitan region ranked 49th among the top 50 largest metropolitan regions, according to a new survey by the Chronicle of Philanthropy.  Only residents of the metropolitan Providence, Rhode Island region donated less. Greater Hartford residents, on average, donated 1.9 percent of their income to charity according to the analysis.  The average amount given, among those itemizing gifts, was $2,994.  The total in Itemized contributions among the region’s 1.2 million people was $600 million.

In Providence, $600 million was donated with an average gift of $2,748, or 1.8 percent of individual income.  The Providence region includes 1.6 million people.

Both cities are among the 60 of America's 100 largest metropolitan areas that give less than the national average of 3.1 percent.

The Chronicle used 2015 Internal Revenue Service data on individuals who earn $50,000 or more annually and who itemize charitable deductions on their income-tax returns to create a snapshot of giving in every county and metropolitan area in the country. Only donations of taxpayers who took a deduction are included, the publication noted. The key measure, according to the Chronicle, is the giving ratio: the total of a locality’s charitable contributions as a share of its total adjusted gross income.

The metropolitan regions with the largest average percentage of income to charity:  Memphis (5.6%), Salt Lake City (5.5%), Birmingham (5.4%), Atlanta (4.6%), San Jose (4.6%), Jacksonville (4.2%), Nashville (4.0%), and Oklahoma City (4.0%).

Five years previously, in 2012, Hartford ranked last among the 50 largest metropolitan regions.  The giving rate that year was also 1.9 percent, reflecting an 89.9 percent decline in giving rate since 2006.  Providence was 49th that year.

Overall in 2015, only 24 percent of taxpayers reported on their tax returns that they made a charitable gift according to the new analysis of Internal Revenue Service data. A decade earlier that figure routinely reached 30 or 31 percent, the Chronicle pointed out. Study authors suspect the numbers come from economic fears in the wake of the Great Recession, and a higher cost of living.

UConn Expands Presence in Hartford, Stamford

UConn is on the move this week, literally as well as figuratively.  Wednesday will see the ribbon cutting for the new Hartford campus, which is relocating from its suburban campus in West Hartford after nearly five decades away from the Capital City.  And in Stamford, students will be moving into student housing beginning this weekend, the first time that has been possible. In Hartford, the university intends to “interweave top-tier academic programs with the vitality and unique educational and service opportunities offered by Connecticut’s capital city.”  The campus – at a cost of $140 million - is anchored by the historic former Hartford Times building as part of a neighborhood campus that includes nearby cultural institutions and state and city government offices, including Hartford Public Library, which will house 12,000 square feet of UConn classrooms, a library collection, and study areas.

The campus will be the home for the university’s Department of Public Policy, Urban and Community Studies Program, Cooperative Extension System, and the Connecticut State Historian.  A new Barnes & Noble bookstore is also coming downtown as part of the new campus.

UConn is also touting the demographics of the student population:  47 percent minority students, and a 13:1 student-faculty ratio.  It anticipates 1,347 undergraduates and 1,602 graduate students downtown, at the undergraduate campus, School of Social Work and business school, which has been downtown for more than a decade.  A year ago, the Board of Trustees voted to extend the Graduate Business Learning Center’s (GBLC) lease at 100 Constitution Plaza, and to add two additional floors to the existing space, allocating a total of six floors of classroom, meeting and office space.

The UConn School of Social Work is moving from West Hartford down the block from the new undergraduate building, to 38 Prospect Street, directly across from the Wadsworth Atheneum.  And, it was announced earlier this month, regular bus service between Storrs and Hartford is getting underway, free of charge to students. There will also be a shuttle bus running a loop downtown, and although there is no designated student parking, officials say the number of available spaces in nearby lots should be more than sufficient.

Meanwhile, at UConn’s Stamford campus, the inaugural move-in weekend is scheduled for August 26th and 27th, as the campus offers student housing for the first time. The student dorm, at 900 Washington Boulevard, is 2 blocks south of the UConn Stamford campus and halfway between the main campus building and the Stamford Transportation Center.

The building is six stories tall and will have 116 apartment units. the school's website explains. The maximum occupancy of the building is approximately 350 students, but because some of the bedrooms will be single occupancy, the target occupancy is 290 students. Plans call for 100 designated parking spaces for students will be available for a small additional charge.

The residence hall also includes an 80-person meeting room, administrative offices and a lobby on the first floor. Each floor has a study lounge, and the second floor has a large community center in which students can congregate and have events. The University will manage Stamford housing as in Storrs, with an on-site Resident Director and on-floor Resident Assistants.

The current UConn Stamford academic campus, at the corner of Washington Boulevard and Broad Street in downtown Stamford, opened in 1998, although courses had previously been offered in the city. The facility also provides current UConn students, faculty and staff access the on-site Fitness Center free of charge.

In addition to the main campus in Storrs, UConn also has a presence in Waterbury and Avery Point, as well as the School of Law in Hartford’s west end and the Health Center in Farmington.  The former UConn Torrington campus closed a year ago, due to “declining interest among students, falling enrollment, a limited faculty, and changing regional demographics,” according to school officials.

Knowledge Corridor to Gain Boost as More Frequent Rail Runs Through It

For years, the tag line has been “innovation runs through it.”  In the coming year, there will also be more frequent rail service running through it, and that may make all the difference in the world. When proponents of economic development in what’s known as “New England’s Knowledge Corridor” get together for a conference this fall, it will be with the backdrop of the three anchor cities that span two states – New Haven, Hartford, and Springfield – being more connected than ever, with the start of the new regular rail service between the cities just months away.

The half-day conference, “Leveraging the Knowledge Corridor’s Transportation Assets and Investments to Drive Economic Progress,” will be held at Union Station in Springfield on October 18.  It will serve as the coalition’s 2017 “State of the Region” conference.

The keynote speaker will be Robert Puentes, President/CEO of the Eno Center for Transportation.  Panelists will include five members of Congress from the region:  Richard Neal and James McGovern from Massachusetts and John Larson, Rosa DeLauro, and Elizabeth Esty from Connecticut.

Plans also include talks by Connecticut Commissioner of Transportation James Redeker and his counterpart in the Bay State, Stephanie Pollack, Secretary/CEO of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.  Officials also anticipate releasing the results of the 2017 New England Knowledge Corridor Business Survey.

"In the Knowledge Corridor, we’re convinced that the transportation assets we have; new ones that will be coming online in the  next year or two, plus; those we are planning to see realized over a longer range time line constitute the bedrock of a competitive 21st century economy that enables ready and affordable access to skilled workers, attractive markets and motivated consumers on a global scale," Tim Brennan, Chairman of New England Knowledge Corridor Partnership and Executive Director of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, told CT by the Numbers.

On Monday, Governor Dannel P. Malloy announced that a joint venture of TransitAmerica Services and Alternate Concepts has been selected as the service provider that will operate and manage service on the Hartford Line – which is expected to launch in May 2018.

Work is continuing throughout the summer, including grade crossing upgrades in Wallingford this month, as part of the overall upgrade of the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield rail line – now branded as the CTrail Hartford Line, with expanded service scheduled to being in 2018, according to transportation officials.  Last month, construction in Meriden and Windsor included track construction upgrades.

New England’s Knowledge Corridor is an interstate partnership of regional economic development, planning, business, tourism and educational institutions that work together to advance the region’s economic progress. The region “transcends political boundaries,” officials point out, and it comprises the Hartford, Springfield and New Haven metro areas and is centered on seven counties in the two states, underscoring the area’s “rich tradition of inventions, research and higher education.”

The New Haven-Hartford-Springfield (NHHS) Rail Program is a partnership between the State of Connecticut, Amtrak and the Federal Railroad Administration.  The goal is to provide those living, working or traveling between New Haven, Hartford and Springfield with high speed rail service equal to the nation’s best rail passenger service, officials emphasize.

The Hartford Line will act as a regional link with connections to existing rail services, including Metro-North, Shoreline East, and Amtrak Acela high-speed rail services on both the New Haven Line to New York and on the Northeast Corridor to New London and Boston. There will also be direct bus connections to the Bradley Airport Flyer and to CTfastrak.  With a heightened level of direct and connecting service linking the region, the hope is that towns along the future Hartford Line will become magnets for growth – ideal places to live and to relocate businesses that depend on regional markets and travel.

All of which dovetails perfectly with the “selling points” routinely used to promote the Corridor:

  • Academic Powerhouse – One of the country’s highest academic concentrations and largest capacities for research, with 41 colleges and universities and 215,000 students
  • Exceptional Achievement – Consistently among the nation’s top 10 in percentage of the population with advanced degrees, science-engineering doctorates and new patents registered
  • Big, Concentrated Market – The nation’s 20th largest metro region, with over 2.77 million people, is comparable to Denver and St. Louis, but with twice their population density, which means ready access to labor and consumers
  • Large Workforce – A labor force of 1.34 million, 50% larger than the Charlotte metro area
  • Business Hub – 64,000 businesses – 60 percent more than the Austin metro

"Providing frequent, reliable, commuter rail service connecting New Haven-Hartford-Springfield, the three major cities that anchor the Knowledge Corridor and its over 2.7 million people, will be nothing short of a game changer enabling the cross border region’s to reach its potential as an economic powerhouse within New England while simultaneously linking it to the white hot economies found in the Boston and New York City mega regions," Brennan added.

The CTrail Hartford Line rail service will operate at speeds up to 110 mph, cutting travel time between Springfield and New Haven to as little as 81 minutes. Travelers at New Haven, Wallingford, Meriden, Berlin, Hartford, Windsor, Windsor Locks and Springfield will be able to board trains approximately every 30 minutes during the peak morning and evening rush hour and hourly during the rest of day, with direct or connecting service to New York City and multiple frequencies to Boston or Vermont (via Springfield).  New train stations also are in various stages of development in North Haven, Newington, West Hartford and Enfield.

Also, very much a part of the strengthening transportation options with the potential to spur economic development is Bradley International Airport, which recently has added international flights on Aer Lingus (last year) and Norwegian Air (last month) and a direct-to-San Francisco route via United Airlines.

Connecticut Airport Authority Executive Director Kevin A. Dillon said the aim is to “build on Bradley’s strengths and continue our focus to deliver more convenience and connectivity for our region.  Flying to Europe from Bradley has never been easier and more affordable.”

The Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) conducted a bidding process and cost-benefit analysis for the Hartford Line program and selected TransitAmerica Services and Alternate Concepts, which are forming a joint venture solely for the purpose of serving the Hartford Line. This marks the first time that CTDOT has been able to select and contract with an experienced service provider for a major transportation program, a more cost-efficient alternative to the agency creating a separate internal unit and hiring employees to manage the Hartford Line, according to state officials.

Achieve Hartford Aims to Push for Progress in Hartford Schools, From Top Down and Bottom Up

In the aftermath of Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin’s State of the City address and a comprehensive three-part investigative series published by the Hartford Courant examining the city’s decades-long response to the Sheff decision on integration and quality education, Achieve Hartford! is preparing for its second annual fundraising event and intensifying efforts to encourage sustainable education progress in the city. “Compare the mayor’s role in addressing the fiscal crisis, promoting regionalization, union renegotiations, the fight against blight, or key quality of life issues like resolving a flawed 311 system,” the organization said this month. “In each of these areas as well as several others, Mayor Bronin and his leadership team came together publicly and with a clear mandate directed from the top across departments to solve problems, making the combined whole greater than the individual roles and parts.  Now is a time where city leaders are called to step up as education leaders.”

In promoting their second annual “Inspire Hartford” event slated for May 11, organizers are urging attendees to “see innovation in action” and hear “uplifting stories of success.” They add: “learn how innovative ideas and new technology are training the next generation of bright dreamers and big thinkers. Get educated—and be inspired.”

The keynote speaker will be Charles Best, who leads DonorsChoose.org, the pioneering crowdfunding nonprofit where anyone can help a classroom in need. At DonorsChoose.org, public school teachers create classroom project requests and donors can choose the projects they want to support. Best launched the platform in 2000 out of a Bronx public high school where he taught history. Today, more than two thirds of U.S. public schools have at least one teacher who has created a project request on DonorsChoose.org, and 1.8 million people have donated $360 million to classroom projects reaching 16 million students.

Achieve Hartford!, which was formed in 2008, is an independent nonprofit organization founded by business and community leaders “with the belief that strong schools lead to a strong city,” noting that  “Mayors, Boards of Education and Superintendents change over time.”

“We are doing everything we can to lay out a blueprint for systemic change in Hartford that can help guide collective efforts to improve schools, and we look forward to working with the mayor, the next superintendent, and so many others critical to putting education reform in Hartford back on track,” the organization said earlier this month, while noting that Bronin indicated “strengthening our neighborhood schools must be the single most important priority for our new Superintendent, and I pledge to be a full partner.”

Last week, the search for a new Superintendent for the city was narrowed to two candidates: Acting Superintendent Leslie Torres-Rodriguez and Capital Region Education Council (CREC) Assistant Superintendent for Operations Tim Sullivan.

Achieve Hartford warned that “If Hartford leaders, stakeholders, and families put the responsibility for fixing Hartford schools solely on the new superintendent, we should not expect either finalist to be successful.  The responsibility must be shared amongst the Board of Education, City Hall, the corporate community, philanthropy, nonprofit partners, and even our robust institutions of higher education.”

The organizations stresses that it works “toward improving education in our city by innovating ways to address some of our toughest issues, activating the community to take ownership of problem solving, and holding our leaders and educators accountable for advancing student achievement.”

Summarizing recent activities, the organization’s website says succinctly, “there is a lot of conversation but, ultimately, not much action.”

“Developing great schools require not only that the school system operate with excellence, but also our entire community,” the organization’s website points out. “It takes a village to educate a child, and it is our job to help stakeholders play their unique set of roles for school improvement now, and long into the future.”

The May 11 fundraising event will take place at the Hartford Hilton.

Collegiate Greek Life Leaders Descend on Hartford, Again

Hotel rooms were relatively scarce in downtown Hartford this past weekend as the Northeast Greek Leadership Association attracted about 1,000 college students involved in leading their campus fraternities and sororities to the Capitol City for the regional organization’s annual conference. The NGLA filled rooms at the Marriot and Hilton downtown, with overflow rooms at the Holiday Inn for the conference held at the Connecticut Convention Center, February 23 – 26.  The conference has become somewhat of a tradition in Hartford, held in the city in alternate years.

NGLA provides educational training and leadership development for collegiate fraternity and sorority members from college campuses across the northeast, and “builds community among students from a variety of fraternal experiences, challenges members to align their actions with fraternal values, and empowers advocates to transform and improve their communities,” the organization’s website points out.

“Hartford has always graciously welcomed our conference and its 1000+ conference attendees from across the northeast. We are thrilled to be back at the Convention Center,” said Emily Perlow, Chairman of the association’s Board of Directors. 

This year’s program highlights included education on motivating members, values based decision making, diversity and inclusion, and sexual assault prevention. Students, campus based professionals, national fraternity and sorority professionals and volunteers, as well as vendors and speakers attend the event, which offers a range of educational opportunities for participants.

The program also includes an Advisors Academy, which was recognized as an Outstanding Educational Program by the Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors. There also is programming specifically for culturally based fraternities and sororities and local fraternities and sororities. In addition, opportunities to “sit with brothers and sisters from the region at the affiliation luncheon.”  The weekend culminates with a closing banquet during which NGLA Awards are presented, recognizing outstanding achievement.

Among the sessions held during the conference: Curiosity, Courage and Cake: Surviving Mental Illness Through Sisterhood; Know Better/Do Better: A Frank Talk About Campus Racism; and Retaking Our Story: Reframing the Sexual Assault Conversation.  Speakers providing insight for the student leaders address topics including: Be An Action Hero: The 4 Traits of High Impact Leaders; Why We Need to Talk with Our Members About Race and Every Student Needs to Know About Alcohol.

NGLA, which formed in 2011 with the merger of two fraternal organizations in the region, states as its vision:

  • Fraternities and sororities in the northeast provide co-curricular learning experiences that prove to be essential in furthering the mission of their host institution
  • Fraternities and sororities in the northeast are high performing and are looked to as a model of best practices
  • Fraternities and sororities members in the northeast can articulate their founding principles, strive to live these principles, and challenge peers whose behavior is inconsistent with these principles.
  • NGLA is known to members on every campus as a valuable resource that provides a demonstrated return on investment.

There were just over one thousand attendees at last year’s conference in Pittsburgh, PA.  The conference returns to Pittsburgh next year, and then will be back in Hartford in 2019.

State’s First Law Incubators Set to Launch in Hartford, Bridgeport

Connecticut’s first law incubators are due to open early this year at the Center for Family Justice, a Bridgeport-based nonprofit, and at UConn School of Law,  being established to provide affordable legal services to people who need them and help lawyers establish solo practices. The Connecticut Community Law Center, an initiative of the law school and the Hartford County Bar Association, aims to help people who have traditionally been underserved by the justice system: low- and moderate-income clients who don’t qualify for legal aid but can’t afford standard legal fees, the UConn School of Law announced this month.

“Too many people face legal problems concerning essential human needs without proper representation because they fall into the growing access-to-justice gap, between the very poor who qualify for legal aid and those with the financial means to pay a private lawyer,” said attorney Mark Schreier, who was appointed director of the Connecticut Community Law Center. “Standing alone and without professional guidance, those individuals enter our justice system at a tremendous disadvantage.”

The incubator is set to open in February in William F. Starr Hall on the UConn Law campus in Hartford. In addition to the services of the director, the law school will provide office space and support – including training, guidance, and legal research resources – for up to six solo practitioners. The Hartford County Bar Association and the law school faculty will provide mentors, and Greater Hartford Legal Aid will help with training and referrals.

The subsidized working environment will allow participating lawyers to provide legal services at a modest cost that is lower than standard legal fees, with each lawyer setting the fee on a case by case basis. Schreier said he expects cases to involve a wide range of legal problems, including family, consumer, probate, housing, bankruptcy, employment, immigration, and other general civil matters.

In Bridgeport, the Center for Family Justice, a Bridgeport-based nonprofit that provides services to trauma survivors affected by domestic violence, sexual assault or child abuse, will house the incubator.

The Center is working with Connecticut law schools to help build the center’s legal apparatus, Fairfield County Business Journal reported, with several professors from Quinnipiac University on the steering committee to help develop the parameters of the program.  Four attorneys are being sought.

Lawyers in the incubator program at the Center will provide the legal advices services and representation needed by victims of domestic violence, including restraining orders, divorce proceedings, child custody and support, housing and immigration issues.  An Open House was held in September to interest local attorneys in participating.

“A legal incubator is like a business incubator,” Jennifer Ferrante, who joined the Center for Family Justice staff as the coordinator for the new service, told the Journal.  At the center’s office at 753 Fairfield Ave., “We are going to be housing four attorneys here on site,” she said. Two of the first attorneys who applied and were accepted in the program are recent law school graduates.

The American Bar Association counts more than 60 lawyer incubators around the country, three-fourths of them established since 2014. The Connecticut Community Law Center and the Justice Legal Center at the Center for Family Justice in Bridgeport, will be the first in Connecticut.

Participating lawyers will spend 18 to 24 months at the Connecticut Community Law Center before moving on with their practices. The training and experience they receive will not only help them jump-start their practices, it will spread seeds of innovation in the delivery of legal services at an affordable cost, UConn Law Dean Timothy Fisher said.

Clients who qualify for services at the Hartford incubator will be those whose incomes exceed the limits for legal aid but fall within three times the federal poverty level. For a family of four, this would mean a maximum household income of $72,900. Clients wishing to apply for services may do so beginning in February, when information will be available at the center’s website: cclc.law.uconn.edu.

“I think it will give the low- and moderate-income community a real chance in getting their legal needs met and ending their cycles in abuse and poverty,” Ferrante said of the new Bridgeport center.

Planning for the legal incubator has been ongoing since 2009. Although the Center for Family Justice is focused on serving six Fairfield County municipalities – Bridgeport, Easton, Fairfield, Monroe, Stratford and Trumbull – it also welcomes those seeking help from elsewhere in the state, officials said.

Education Is Key to Improving State of Black Hartford, New Report Says

"The State of Black Hartford,"  published more than two decades after a landmark sociological text originally published in 1994, squarely focuses on education as the overriding issue on which Hartford’s future, and Connecticut’s, will be determined, flatly stating that “the future of Hartford rests with how we educate our children so they can contribute to the state and survive as productive citizens.” “The mis-education of children is a human rights struggle. Children of color are our children and the thousands that are failing can no longer be tolerated. We have a moral, ethical and economic responsibility to educate children in Hartford. Hartford’s future is our children and they deserve an opportunit to compete and survive,” the new report’s conclusion states.

The report, published in recent weeks and unveiled at a public session in Hartford, points out that “the city remains challenged with high unemployment rates, uneven public education, missed opportunities in economic development, and a work force that is not adequately prepared to achieve sustainable living wages.  There are new forms of discrimination where children graduate from high school without a real education to support themselves.”

Observing that “education in Hartford has been a priority for many years,” the report goes on to suggest what should happen next.  “Leaders with great intentions have tried, but it is time to require and invite the involvement and participation from parents and families as partners in their children’s education. There is no other way to address the needs of children. Our society has made it very clear it will not take care of them.”state-of-black-hartford-spotlight-2

The 220 page report, made possible through a $36,000 grant from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, was written by volunteers from a diverse group of disciplines, including educators, social workers and ministers. It was published by the Urban League of Greater Hartford, Inc.  Stanley F. Battle, director of the University of St. Joseph's master's of social work program was Editor; Ashley L. Golden-Battle was content editor.

The State of Black Hartford 2016 addresses challenges that African Americans face at both the national and local level through a series of briefs and chapters.  The chapter authors “pay close attention to how Blacks are perceived by the public” and “incorporate barriers to education, economic stability, health and welfare.”  Metrics and case studies are used "to better understand Black Hartford."  Chapter authors include Peter Rosa, Amos Smith, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, Maris Dillman, Rodney L. Powell, Yan Searcy, Kimberly Hardy, Yvonne Patterson, Eunice Matthews, Clyde Santana, Trevor Johnson, and Rev. Shelley Best.

Noting that Hartford holds the “distinction of being both the capital for one of the wealthiest states in the country and being one of the poorest cities in country,” among the key observations highlighted in the report:

  • “We need family stability, livable wages, economic development, and education to fully bridge the achievement gap.”
  • “Hartford is a great place to work—the Greater Hartford community is aware of this fact. It is important to make sure that Hartford residents receive some of those benefits.”
  • “Economic growth and business development are the foundation for Hartford’s survival. With downtown development and the presence of universities, it is time to develop new business incubators in the arts, home repair, healthcare, biotechnology, and business.”
  • “In Hartford, 37 percent of the population is Black yet they make up only 10 percent of the population throughout the rest of Connecticut and 12 percent of the population in the United States (DHHS, 2012). The population of Hartford is younger than other Connecticut and U.S. cities with over 70 percent of the residents being under 45 years old (DHHS, 2012).”
  • “The lifeblood of Hartford depends on education, business, employment, economic status and mortality, housing and food.”

Issues including criminal justice, housing, healthcare, child welfare are also discussed in depth in the report.  Case studies, anecdotal evidence and data are highlighted throughout the report.  The central role of faith, and religious institutions is also the focus of the report, in the context that “presently Black Churches are still striving to meet increasing demands with decreasing resources.” urban-league

That uphill effort is reflected in the report indicating that “the Black Church cannot continue to operate as an independent agent with sparse budgets drawn from the meager donations of an already struggling congregation.  Clergy and congregations need to build coalitions with other churches…”  The importance is underscored as the report stresses that “active involvement of faith leaders as community leaders in the ongoing struggle for social, political, and economic justice is no less necessary now than it has ever been.”

The report bluntly states that “…if we do not educate children from urban school districts, the future of this state will be at serious risk. The achievement gap continues to expand with little improvement. It is true that there has been some improvement in graduation rates. However, many graduating seniors from urban school districts must endure remedial work if they decide to attend a two or four-year institution.”

Education is viewed as essential to solving a range of persistent challenges facing the city’s African-American community and city residents: “The challenges that confront Hartford include the overarching issue of poverty.  While some efforts to address economic development, crime, and financial stability have been discussed inchart this book, education is the ultimate determinate of success.  In order for Hartford to excel, the population must be educated. The emerging majority must be able to support itself and children require cutting edge educational opportunities.”

Among the data points:

  • One half of high school graduates need help when they start a community college or a state university. Sixty-three percent of Hartford high school graduates require a remedial coursework.
  • Slightly less than one third of Black males and slightly more than one third of Latino males to begin college education at public institutions of higher education complete their education within six years.

The report notes that “Frequently, urban youth can’t afford to attend community colleges, so how will they be able to earn a four- year degree?  Hartford has the right idea to focus on education and economic development. Children need their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and the community to be successful.”

The report also calls for crime and homicide rates to be addressed at the community level. “There are families who have lived in Hartford for over 30 years and all of their children graduated from the Hartford Public school system. Their children are successful.  How did they do it and why don’t we ask them?”

Economic development, the report explains, is another pivotal area that requires attention that differs from past efforts: “Blacks must become a major part of the growth strategy of these neighborhoods. The promise will only work if there is a diverse group of investors with Black investors in these zones. Black people must become owners in the city in greater numbers.”

Dr. Stanley F. Battle, educator, author and civic activist is currently Director/Professor of the MSW Program in the Department of Social Work and Latino Community Practice at the University of Saint Joseph.  Previously, Dr. Battle was the Interim President at Southern Connecticut State University, Chancellor at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (NCA&T) and President of Coppin State University in Baltimore.

The mission of the Urban League of Greater Hartford is “To reduce economic disparities in our communities through programs, services and educational opportunities.”

Hartford’s Innovation, Manufacturing History Highlighted in Exhibits at Smithsonian and State Capitol

On Wednesday, July 13, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History will make public a special portion of their collection with “Objects Out of Storage: Hartford, CT.”  The special exhibit, led by curator Susan Tolbert and historian Eric Hinz, will take place at noontime in the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation in the nation’s Capitol.banner-POI-sign-ET2015-4379_1 Describing Hartford’s prominent manufacturing history, Hinz said “Hartford, CT, is a classic story in the history of American technology. If you have ever wondered why people refer to “Yankee ingenuity,” this is what they are talking about.”  He adds, “In the mid and late 1800s, the United States overtakes Great Britain as the world’s foremost economic superpower, largely on the strength of its prowess in inventing and manufacturing new technologies. Hartford is at the center of that revolution.”

Hartford, described as “one of the birthplaces of American mass production,” is well represented in the ongoing exhibit, Places of Invention, which “takes visitors on a journey through time and place to meet people who lived, worked, played, collaborated, adapted, took risks, solved problems, and sometimes failed—all in the pursuit of something new.”

HartfordThe exhibit notes that by the 1850’s “Hartford became the center of production for a wide array of products—including firearms by Colt, Richard Gatling and John Browning; Weed sewing machines; Royal and Underwood typewriters; Columbia bicycles; and even Pope automobiles.”lemelson

The Lemelson Center is located at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, Constitution Avenue between 12th and 14th Street NW, in Washington, DC. The Lemelson Hall of Invention and Innovation is located on the Museum's first floor in its Innovation Wing. In the exhibit, which debuted  last summer, Hartford is featured with Silicon Valley and just four other locations: Hollywood, home of Technicolor; the Medical Alley of Minnesota, where cardiac innovations of the 1950s flourished; the Bronx, N.Y., birthplace of hip-hop in the 1970s; and the current, clean-energy innovations of Ft. Collins, Colo.

Among the featured innovations on display is the bicycle, manufactured for the first time in the United States in Hartford.  As the Smithsonian historian explains, “sensing a commercial opportunity, Albert Pope began importing bicycles from England and hatched a plan to produce them domestically in 1877. Within a year, Pope rode the train from Boston to Hartford, then, ‘to the amazement of the city’s onlookers, plantrode his high-wheeler from the station down Capitol Avenue to the Weed Sewing Machine Company.’”

The history continues: “Pope approached factory superintendent George Fairfield with a proposal: would Weed agree to build a test run of 50 bicycles under contract? When Fairfield agreed, Pope (via the Weed Sewing Machine Company) became the first domestic manufacturer of bicycles in the United States. By 1895, Pope’s expanded Hartford operations included five factories set on 17 acres, employing 4,000 workers, making him Hartford’s largest employer.” Pope manufactured bicycles, motorcycles, and automobiles.

That chapter in Hartford history has recently captured the imagination of a well-known Hartford artist, whose cut-paper recreations of that chapter of the city’s transportation and recreation breakthrough is now available for display, having just completed an exhibition at the Connecticut State Capitol.

IMG_0185Jeanne Manzelli, a resident of Windsor, has a IMG_0176BFA in Sculpture from the Massachusetts College of Art and her MED in Art Education from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Her experience includes a 20 year career in design, manufacture, appraisal and sale of jewelry, two decades as mural artist working closely with interior designers as an industry professional, and 14 years teaching basic and advanced drawing, sculpture and 3D design as well as color theory at Tunxis Community College.

Her latest endeavor is a departure, and a salute to an innovation from a century and a half ago. The intricate designs, accompanied by information panels highlighting the history, are now available to be displayed at public facilities, such as schools, libraries, and community centers.  Manzelli looks forward to sharing her work (and is seeking a sponsor to underwrite the exhibit), as well as stimulating a conversation about innovation in Hartford, then and now.


Hartford’s Reputation As Excellent Host for National Gymnastics Brings Returns

If the three twenty-somethings enjoying  lunch and some brief down time outside at Trumbull Kitchen seemed familiar to passersby in downtown Hartford, it’s probably because they’ve been on national television a time or two.  And will be again. The casual lunch and conversation among three friends – competitors in the P&G Gymnastics Championships being held at the XL Center this weekend – are just one example of how hosting a major sporting event, in this case gymnastics, can boost the local economy and have reverberations that will continue to add value.

Californian Sam Mikulak, 23, who has won the men’s national title each of the past three years, remembers Hartford well.  His string of three consecutive all-around championships started here in 2013.  Fellow athletes Donathan Bailey, 25, of California and C.J. Maestas, 24, of New Mexico, have also competed in national championships held in Hartford.lunch

This weekend, the Capitol city is hosting not only the men’s championship for the third time in a decade (2010 and 2013 previously) but is also hosting the Secret U.S. Classic, a key tune-up for the nation’s top women gymnasts, with the Olympics just two months away and the U.S. teams to be chosen in the coming weeks.  It is the first time that Hartford has hosted major gymnastics events in an Olympic year, when public interest peaks.

The roster of past Olympic and international medalists competing in Hartford is lengthy – unprecedented in the view of some observers – and in many cases, Connecticut is part of their individual Olympic journeys.

2012 Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman of Needham, Massachusetts recalls competing in Hartford in 2010, and says of her return, “I feel like I’m competing at home.”Aly

The Connecticut Convention and Sports Bureau (CTCSB) projects 1,425 hotel room nights, an estimated attendance approaching 30,000, a business sales impact of $1.5 million and $50,000 in local taxes generated.  But the impact goes beyond those numbers.

“It raises awareness of what we have in the state,” when people visit to enjoy the competition, or root for family or friends, points out Bob Murdock, Director of Sports Marketing at CTCSB.

Add to that the national network television coverage (NBC telecasts coverage on Sunday and NBC Sports Network also provides coverage), and the Hartford locale mentioned in news stories published worldwide and plentiful on social media, the exposure for the city and state is incalculable.  “It has lasting effects,” says Murdock, and “helps grow the brand of Connecticut.”

USA GymnasticsWhy does USA Gymnastics keep coming back?  “Everything runs smoothly,” suggests Mikulak, expressing a competitor’s viewpoint. “They trust us,” adds Murdock, noting that when Connecticut bids to attract future national caliber sporting events, the first question asked is “what else have you hosted.”

“The sports talk to each other,” Murdock explained.  They ask about community support, and the overall experience.  That USA Gymnastics has returned multiple times with its top national events speaks volumes.

Some up-and-coming hopefuls wouldn’t mind seeing the Hartford tradition continue awhile longer.

Among those competing at the Junior elite level is 14-year-old Riley McCusker of New Milford, the lone Connecticut resident at either the Senior or Junior level.photo

“I am so excited to be in Connecticut,” she says, seeking to advance her fledgling career at a major competition in her home state. Many of her friends and family will be on hand, including some that may be surprised when they see her on the XL Center floor and realize the full dimension of her steadily progressing gymnastics career.conv

McCusker recalls being at the XL Center as a spectator for a previous national championship, and being wowed by an extraordinary floor exercise she witnessed. This weekend, she may turn some heads herself as she continues to emphasize quality and consistency  as her track-record grows, although not quite looking ahead yet to Olympic possibilities in 2020.

Four years beyond her Olympic experience in London leading the U.S. team and earning individual and team gold medals, the just-turned-22 year-old Raisman says it “feels like forever ago.”  With a field of potential U.S. Olympians as deep as it ever has been all vying for one of only a handful of slots on the 2016 U.S. team, having the journey come through a familiar place – with nearly two dozen close friends and family coming to Hartford to join the many fans here to cheer her on - may offer a lift.

The competition itself certainly does so for the XL Center, Hartford and Connecticut.  Mikulak, as only a visitor could, sums it up succinctly:  “Hartford is a popular place.”



Aly Raisman of Needham, Mass. won the senior all-around title at the 2016 Secret U.S. Classic at the XL Center on Saturday, June 4.  Rachel Gowey of Urbandale, Iowa was second, and Alyssa Baumann of Plano, Texas finished third. Earlier in the day, Irina Alexeeva of Plano, Texas, captured the junior all-around title.  Connecticut’s Riley McCusker of New Milford finished 9th.  The 11,771 who attended the Secret U.S. Classic on Saturday evening were the largest one-day crowd USA Gymnastics has had for events held in Hartford. In 2010, the largest daily crowd was 11,325, and in 2013 the largest daily attendance was 10,233.


PERSPECTIVE: Freedom’s Just Another Word For…

by Rich Hollant


Around the time the State of Connecticut and the City of Hartford were releasing bleak news of their respective budgets, Joey Batts, a Hartford Public School teacher, released a video wherein for 3 minutes 22 seconds he sang his heart out about his affection for the Capital City. The ditty was entitled, “Hartbeat: A Love Letter for Hartford”. You should give a listen—you’ll be inspired. Set against a gritty-yet-hopeful portrayal of our streets, Joey Batt’s rhymes didn’t look at the Hartford neighborhoods with rose-colored glasses, but rather with objectivity brought to focus by real love. At this writing, the video has 1,083 shares on social media and has accrued 54,921 unique views—that’s nearly half our city. Imagine that.

CT perspectiveDance.

At about the same time, I was paying attention to Arien Wilkerson, the 20-something artistic director of the Hartford-based troop, Tnmot Aztro. His ensemble had been dazzling audiences with wildly collaborative and awe-inspiring feats of syncopated brilliance. As the budget news dominated the headlines, Wilkerson was provoking the established media and city leadership in support of two opportunities critical to his success: press coverage of dance and greater access to performance venues. The self-generated tension in his pleas missed the intended mark, but it didn’t matter. Tnmot Aztro would become not just the first local dance troop to perform at the contemporary art space, Real Art Ways, they would do so for 3 solid sold-out performances.


Against the backdrop of the General Electric exodus, union negotiations, and looming austerity budgets, co:lab launched Parkville Studios, a residency program for recent Connecticut art school graduates. Eventually, we will install a 360° mentoring program where the resident cohorts will support high school students interested in an arts education while the residents, themselves, will receive guidance from private collectors, gallery owners, and curators from throughout the Northeast. We’ll do this soon, but not right now.

Right now, we are motivated by a sense of urgency to keep the brightest of our emerging creative talents painting, drawing, and searching for their voice right here in Hartford. Our priority is to offer them the space to generate their indelible contributions to our culture. This priority is as benevolent as it is self-serving because if you care about a community’s ability to heal, or about equity finding its level, or about the pursuit of the elusive “Better World”, then you can do no better service to your own ideals than to double up your investment in creative expression. The timing is irrelevant. Do it because it needs doing—because it changes everything.in front


That’s what creativity does—it moves us to action. Yet in a down economy, the knee-jerk reaction has been to cut spending on the things that are deemed to be superfluous, limiting expenditures to the “essentials”. Among the first things to go are outreach through marketing and the fostering of the creative part of our culture. That approach is unsustainable. Take another look at the anecdotes above. This is how our community is primed to be reached—through song, through movement, through the paint and textures that represent the essence of who we are right here and right now. When things are tough, we need to stimulate more imagination, not less. We need more lifting up, more hope-giving. We need the new creative people up in front because they conduct the movement. If I were in dire straits, I’d want a New Orleans style marching band like Hartford Hot Several co-opting George Michael songs on the bow. Seriously—we’d levitate.

Invest boldly.


Rich Hollant is the principal, strategist and a design director at co:lab, a firm he started in 1988.  co:lab helps organizations committed to social value tackle the big questions that lead to greater awareness, purposeful motivation, and deeper loyalty.

PERSPECTIVE commentaries by contributing writers appear each Sunday on Connecticut by the Numbers.

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