As an active and engaged member of the Connecticut business community for over 22 years I find myself more recently continuously frustrated and dismayed at how those in government and in groups like the CBIA cannot seem to see the forest from the trees. I am referring to the simple and clear fact that a substantial portion of our state’s residents no longer need to find employment from firms based in the state.
Similarly, a large number of employers here in Connecticut can and should consider talent pools all over the U.S. vs. those just located a commutable distance from their offices. Yet much of the commentary from the CBIA and Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration seems to ignore these realities.
For years business leaders and residents have loudly complained, justifiably so, about the traffic, the high cost of living in and around major hubs for employers, and slower than ideal trains, all making Connecticut hamstrung as a place to do business. WAKE UP Connecticut.
These issues at best have been broadly marginalized for many, and for many are a limited factor compared with 2019 and prior. So what are we doing to pivot to these new realities? Where is the initiative designed to focus on our attributes as a place to live, especially the lower cost areas that no longer carry the valid stigma of their commuting distance to a major metro market? Where is the ad campaign we need, touting to those around the U.S. how we possess a highly educated workforce seeking great jobs for firms around the country?
Where is the evidence to show that our legislators are taking the time to talk to business leaders as well as their constituents, with a focus on (re)educating themselves on what is needed to help everyone?
Setting an agenda for such a massive shift in norms requires asking those you serve — be it voters and/or business leaders — what has changed, how that affects their lives and businesses, and therefore how programs and initiatives and legislation could help them or hurt. Right now, the plans and points being presented represent a significant disconnect between those opinions and the realities of what really is needed.
One final point: It’s clear that at times the presence of our highly successful manufacturing concerns in Connecticut tilt our focus to the need for talent that must report to an office or factory or similar. I recognize that for those firms it is about drawing more talent to the state for their needs, but the framework I am proposing will also meet their needs. Having said that, it is becoming more and more clear that the focus needs to broaden to include all the other successful and burgeoning businesses in the state who don’t have “on-site” requirements for their talent.
I fully understand how the ideal scenario is that our residents are also the ones employed here. Now that we have dispensed with that obvious observation, let’s get on to the task as a state of managing to our strengths, seeing the market for what it is, and getting a plan together that considers multiple voices vs. just association leaders and politicians.
Many other states in the U.S. have been doing this successfully for a year-plus now. Isn’t it finally time for to finally get rid of its well-deserved label of being a place you don’t want to do business, and a place that cannot seem to get out of its own way when it comes to meeting the needs of its workforce and its employers?
David Lewis is CEO of OperationsInc the largest HR consulting practice in Connecticut and one of the largest in the U.S., employing over 150, most of whom work and live in Connecticut.