Connecticut continues to be battered by the worst economic downturn in generations. The state has lost nearly 95,000 jobs since the beginning of the recession — and a record number of businesses have shut down in the past two years. Despite these alarming facts, some policy-makers in Connecticut remain more concerned about their own political careers and advancing narrow agendas than coming up with real solutions to the state's economic crisis.
An example is the reaction of some politicians to the recent court case involving a decision by United Technology Corp.'s Pratt & Whitney division to close two of its plants in Connecticut. One of Pratt's unions challenged the company's right to close a Cheshire factory and a smaller plant in East Hartford. The court ruled Pratt could not close the plants until the expiration of the union contract in December.
Instead of responding to the ruling with calls for an honest debate on what can be done to make Connecticut a more attractive place to retain and create jobs, several politicians reacted as if the court had actually solved the fundamental economic problems underlying Pratt's decision. This misreading of the situation sent the worst possible message to businesses inside and outside of Connecticut.
This failure to acknowledge the greater issues that caused Pratt's decision to close these two long-standing facilities signals that our political leaders are not prepared to address the competitive disadvantages that many Connecticut companies face. The tone set by these politicians raises serious questions about how much they value the contributions Connecticut employers make to their communities. Their us-vs.-them posing denigrates not only employers but also the people they employ.
Everyone wants job security. But the best way to provide it is by creating a positive environment that encourages private-sector investment and economic growth. Connecticut-based businesses have an outstanding record of being good employers who treat their employees well. What they want from their political leadership is an understanding of the competitive pressures they face and to be treated with respect.
Although Connecticut boasts many advantages, our state is faced with enormous challenges. Our cost of doing business, one of the highest in the nation, is even more of a detriment now as companies are forced to cut their costs.
Connecticut also has a reputation, whether deserved or not, of being unfriendly to business. Expansion Management magazine, for example, has ranked the Connecticut General Assembly the least business-friendly legislature in the nation.
We need our political leaders to work together to make our business climate more competitive and improve the image of our state. Putting Connecticut back in the forefront of states that are recognized for nurturing economic growth and job creation is the kind of win-win situation our citizens want and deserve.
•John R. Rathgeber is president and CEO of the Connecticut Business & Industry Association.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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