CT Economic Development Leadership Has Been Changing, With More About to Arrive

Incoming Gov. Ned Lamont’s transition team looked at the state’s economy and business climate and declared, "Given the current fiscal pressures and environment in Connecticut, an economic development and pro-growth platform must have the laser-like focus of the new administration.” If the new administration follows through on that pointed recommendation, it will do so with a relatively new line-up in the field as well as in the administration, where, in addition to a businessman Governor, expectations are that Connecticut will have it's first Secretary of Commerce, along with a restructured economic development framework and approach.

One needs only look as far as four of the state’s leading business organizations to see that change is already underway around the state, and Connecticut’s economic development line-up is in the midst of a major makeover.

The Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce, the MetroHartford Alliance and the Danbury Chamber of Commerce all have leaders at the helm who came on board with the past year.  And less than two months ago, the Bridgeport Regional Business Council saw a new leader take the reins.

Dan Onofrio began as president and CEO of the Bridgeport Regional Business Council (BRBC) in November after a decade as executive vice president of operations and general manager of business systems operations at Environmental Data Resources. He is also a franchise partner in three Rita’s Ice franchises in Connecticut and was the co-founder of the Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Young Emerging Professionals business networking group, the Fairfield County Business Journal reported.

“The greater Bridgeport region has so much opportunity and I see so much potential to be part of the good things that are ahead of us,” Onofrio said in a recent interview.  “There is a perception that it is difficult to do business in Connecticut, so I think that we — not just as a region but as a state — need to change the perception of what Connecticut is and what we have to offer.”

Among his top priorities: “to get engaged with the small-business community as well as the large corporations, and to work with the universities to see how we can create that ecosystem to create a sustainable downtown.”  Widening to a statewide lens, he observed “If policy in Hartford can change, we will see a domino effect of activity in Connecticut that will boost the economy. But it’s not a silver bullet — there are a multitude of things that need to happen.”

Garrett Sheehan has served as president of the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce (GNHCC) since March. Before taking the post at the chamber, Sheehan worked as a broadcast journalist, in economic development and at United Illuminating (UI). He grew up in Middlefield before career stops elsewhere in the country, and service in the U.S. military.  The Chamber of Commerce advocates for business interests in New Haven and 15 suburbs, from Madison to Wallingford to Orange to Milford.  He also serves as 1st Vice President of the Connecticut Economic Development Association.

Sheehan said recently, “from an economic development standpoint I think [the region] has a really strong selling point: location, quality of workforce, institutions of higher education here, and business space we have here…  I’m from Connecticut I want to be a part of the solutions to make Connecticut a great place to be.”

The MetroHartford Alliance’s new leader, David Griggs, also took the helm in March, moving to Connecticut from a similar economic development post in Minneapolis-St.Paul.

“Hartford is a fabulous region that has been flying under the radar,” Griggs said on his arrival in Hartford. “The world needs to know what a great place Hartford is, like the world knows what a great place Minneapolis is… Our focus needs to be less convention and visitors bureau-type messaging about Hartford being a great place to live, work, or play. It needs to be more of a focused message to very specific industries about why they need to be in Hartford if they want to prosper in the U.S. marketplace in their industry.”

In November, Griggs unveiled plans for a changing focus, including an internal restructuring with new leadership staff (to include a research director), strengthening recruiting strategies and an unprecedented level of travel to promote Greater Hartford across the country, the Hartford Business Journal reported.  The Alliance will also rekindle its previous chamber function, bringing back the old Hartford Chamber of Commerce name that hasn’t been used in nearly two decades.

Peter “P.J.” Prunty, who served as director of CityCenter Danbury for the last two and a half years, was appointed as president and CEO of the 10-town Greater Danbury Chamber of Commerce last March. Prunty was born and raised in Danbury.

Health Care Seen as Economic Driver in Connecticut, Propelling Growth

The first thought that comes to mind when someone mentions health care is likely not “economic driver.”  If a new marketing initiative by the Connecticut Health Council succeeds, that may be changing. Newly launched in January 2016, the Connecticut Health Council's "Did You Know" campaign is a multichannel content marketing program designed to raise awareness of the health sector's importance as an economic and employment driver in Connecticut. The initiative highlights data that may have escaped widespread attention across the state, with the aim of “promoting Connecticut as a center of health excellence.”connecticut-health-council-logo

The campaign includes a series of informational posters, now on display at the State Legislative Office Building in Hartford through the end of January, along with “traditional print and broadcast media content, social media alerts, and thought leadership.”  Among the stats highlighted:

  • The healthcare sector in Connecticut has grown 12.5% over the past seven years, and now employs 266,400 people.
  • There are 20,434 registered healthcare employers in the State of Connecticut.
  • From 2007 to 2014, healthcare and social services was the fourth fastest growing employment category in the state.
  • Connecticut’s healthcare sector generated $29.6 billion in estimated total before-tax revenue in 2012.

ozIn addition, the marketing campaign also highlights that thee of the top 10 fastest growing companies headquartered in Connecticut in 2014 were healthcare related companies, and that Connecticut’s healthcare sector has the fifth highest number of sole proprietorships of any sector in the state, with the seventh highest revenues. Connecticut’s “unique base of health sector assets” include health insurance companies, hospitals, medical schools, research capacity, and specialty practices, according to the organization’s website. hartford-logo

Founded in 2012 by the MetroHartford Alliance, the Connecticut Health Council is an association of health sector leaders who work to advance the development of businesses, initiatives and technology that improve health care and wellness both nationally and in the State.  The organization, which currently has 90 partners, fosters “collaboration, education, entrepreneurship and networking among leaders of for-profit and non-profit health sector entities.”

Speaking at this month’s Economic Summit & Outlook in Hartford, Oz Greibel, President & CEO of the MetroHartford Alliance, spoke to the need to highlight the data at the State Capitol, where the info-posters are on display.  “(The campaign) is based on the notion of the health sector as an economic and employment driver – and a place for additional capital investment.  Making sure that people at the legislature understand the importance of this sector, and that the actions that they take can be either helpful or detrimental, to long-term growth.”

posterThe Council's primary activity is to host programs focused on health sector topics that feature speakers of regional, national and international renown, the website points out. The Council also provides “a forum for a robust network of experts, professionals and other parties interested in promoting Connecticut as a center of health excellence and the health sector as a primary driver of economic and employment growth in our State.”

As Greibel described it, the Council’s activities are designed specifically “to leverage the extraordinary resources we have in Connecticut in the health care disciplines.”

Highlighting the impact of the state’s hospitals, the Council points out that Connecticut hospitals provide jobs to 55,000 full-time employees and spend $4.2 billion on goods and services.  Overall, Connecticut hospitals contribute $21.9 billion annually to the state and local economies.

The Connecticut Health Council is co-chaired by Marty Gavin, President & CEO of Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, and Bob Patricelli, Chairman & CEO of Women’s Health USA.  The executive director is Amy Cunningham.CT Health Council

Health Care Providers, Insurers Need to Collaborate to Improve Care, Rein in Costs

When Eric Schultz began his keynote remarks, the President and CEO of Massachusetts-based Harvard Pilgrim Health Care made sure to alert his audience to his homegrown pedigree.  Whether his youth in the Naugatuck Valley, college years (five of them) at UConn, or graduate work at Yale contributed to Harvard Pilgrim’s more-than-solid inaugural years doing business in Connecticut isn’t certain, but the above-expectations numbers are indisputable.  And Schmitt made clear that his nonprofit health insurance company is looking for even greater achievements in his home state.schultz Since entering the Connecticut market in the summer of 2014, the company has been aggressively growing its customer base in a competitive market while working diligently to grow and expand its network of doctors.  Harvard Pilgrim Health Care announced recently that its Connecticut membership has grown to more than 24,000, exceeding expectations for 2015. It now serves more than 800 Connecticut businesses.  Twenty-nine of the state’s 30 hospitals are now in-network.

logo_harvard-pilgrimWith more than 500 business leaders in attendance at an annual Economic Summit & Outlook last week, brought together by the Connecticut Business and Industry Association and MetroHartford Alliance, Schmitt spent some time touting a new model launched in the state of New Hampshire that he believes may be a glimpse into the direction the industry is moving. Harvard Pilgrim Health Care’s footprint in New England now covers “where 90 percent of New Englanders live,” in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine and New Hampshire. quote

Schultz, who succeeded now-Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker in leading the organization five years ago, pointed to what he described as “a practical example of how an insurance company and groups of providers can work together to get control of medical cost trends and to help improve medical outcomes and help create better experiences for physicians and their patients.”

The goals, Shultz explained, are to reduce insurance premium trends by 10 to 15 percent, to improve clinical outcomes, to create a better “practice environment” for medical staff and to grow business.  The partnership is driven to “produce something that’s better than what we have today, because we know the financing of health care is largely broken in the U.S.”

economic summitLaunched in October 2015 and in business as of January 1, Benevera Health, a joint venture led by senior leadership at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Dartmouth-Hitchcock, is a population health company, centered around “clinical and medical informatics.”  Dartmouth-Hitchcock, a nonprofit academic health system that serves a patient population of 1.2 million in New Hampshire and Vermont, is led by Dr. James Weinstein, recently named as one of “100 Physician Leaders to Know” by a national health care trade publication.

“We are combining insurance data with clinical data,” Schultz said, “from their electronic medical records and our claims system, and creating a very powerful source of information.”  That information, he stressed, could be used to better understand what’s happening in regards to patient care, and it can help to redesign and improve clinical care.  This has the potential to be especially important in chronically ill patients, noting that 10 percent of patients drive 50 percent of health care costs.  “It is a great financial opportunity and a great clinical opportunity.”

“The magic,” Shultz noted, is in having the provider and the payer sit down together and figure out” what should be done.  Too often in the past, he said, providers and insurers haven’t gotten together – a lack of cooperation and collaboration that contributes to higher costs and to disconnects regarding patient care.  His expectation is the Benevera will “reduce headaches” that insurance companies often cause providers, reduce duplication and costs, and improve patient care. cbia alliance

In fact, when the new venture was launched last fall, officials from the two companies stressed that the groundbreaking entity, “will take health care coordination to a new level by bringing together clinical, financial and operational data from across partner institutions to provide actionable analytics for clinicians to further improve the quality and efficiency of patient care.”  They added that  “at the center of this approach will be locally-based care advocates who will identify early opportunities to engage patients – especially those with chronic, complex or emerging conditions - and provide them with one-on-one support.”

Schultz noted that insurance companies tend to resist providers suggesting how insurance plans ought to be designed.  He disagrees with that resistance.  “If more insurers took more input from providers on plan design, we’d be a lot better off.”

Harvard Pilgrim is the only not-for-profit, regional health plan operating in four contiguous New England states.  Harvard Pilgrim’s flagship health plans in New England provide health coverage to 1.3 million members, while another 1.4 million individuals are served through Health Plans, Inc., a subsidiary that provides integrated care management, health coaching and plan administration solutions to self-funded employers nationwide.  Schultz holds an MBA in Health Care Leadership from Yale University’s School of Management, as well as a bachelor of science degree in biology and a bachelor of arts degree in economics from the University of Connecticut.

“We’re about change and driving change,” Schultz told those attending the Hartford summit, “and I believe we need to do more of that.”  He’s hoping to build a similar structure in Connecticut, and in other states around the country, because “it’s exactly what we need to do.”

Link to CT-N video of Economic Summit & Outlook.