Gov. Dannel P. Malloy opened an economic summit in Hartford today by promising a standing-room audience of business executives, union leaders, educators and public officials that Connecticut is poised to reinvent itself and its business climate.
After months of touring companies and pitching his administration as business friendly, the first Democratic governor in 20 years said, “We have heard loud and clear what we need.”
The summit was organized by the Malloy Administration as both a symposium on economic development and an organizing tool, a way develop a common framework as the General Assembly returns in two weeks for a special session on jobs.
It featured panel discussions and speeches via video-conference by experts such as Steven Cochrane, the chief economist of Moody’s Analytics.
“We have reached out to all parties–Democrats, Republicans, anyone of good will who wants to be part of the solution, because I can assure you, we’ve identified the problem,” Malloy said.
Malloy and his staff have had meetings with leaders and staffs of the legislature’s Democratic majority and its Republican minority, trying to craft a bipartisan agenda on the only engaging voters: the economy.
“There is not a Republican way of building jobs and a Democratic way of building jobs,” Malloy said. “If anything, we as a state have proven that we’ve got to get together and get on the same page and get this thing moving.”
In Connecticut, Malloy is working to reverse two decades with no net job growth, though various sectors have stabilized and some face the maddening problem of struggling to find qualified workers, despite an unemployment rate of 9.1 percent.
“Clearly, there is a desire for a better educated work force,” Malloy said.
One key agenda item in the special session will be building on the administration’s commitment to bioscience, particularly by investing in new laboratories and more faculty at the UConn Health Center in Farmington.
“We had a warning shot fired across our bow when Pfizer moved 440 obs to Cambridge, Mass. Why? Because they had infrastructure, and we did not,” Malloy said.
Now, Connecticut is celebrating its first return on its bioscience investment: the commitment by The Jackson Laboratory to join the state in development a $1.1 billion genomic research institute at UConn.
Jackson, which is based in Bar Harbor, Maine, had been set to build a new facility in Florida, but it could not interest Gov. Rick Scott or obtain economic development assistance.
“Another state turned down an opportunity, and we pounced on it,” Malloy said. “I hope we’re going to pounce on lots of other opportunities.”
More than generating direct and spinoff jobs, the governor said the move by Jackson Labs sends an important message.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for the world to know that Connecticut gets what it did wrong over the last 20 years, and it’s willing to move and commit and change and reinvent and create jobs,” Malloy said.
He thanked the unexpectedly large audience of more than 600–the program was delayed to accommodate last-minute registrations–for coming.
“It’s great to be in a room full of winners,” he said.