Connecticut's exports have increased more than 57 percent from 2005 to 2008 and now exceed $15 billion annually.
Yet the recession and this past week's announcement of manufacturing jobs in Connecticut moving to Asia raise a serious question: What will help the state keep apace in this rapidly globalizing economy?
•Direct foreign investment. The state's efforts to get a European flight from Bradley International Airport should be encouraged. The state also should invest more in attracting foreign businesses. Connecticut's location is attractive to European and Canadian companies. Unlike other states, however, we do not have offices overseas dedicated to bringing companies and jobs back to Connecticut. Nor do we offer enough tax incentives for overseas companies to locate here.
•Global talent. Connecticut's talent pipeline includes a population that is 13 percent foreign-born. It also includes students who come from homes speaking more than 140 languages. We should view the 7,400 international students studying at colleges and universities here as a resource (beyond the $325 million they spend annually in the local economy).
•School reform. The General Assembly did not pass the school reform proposal with a focus on science, technology, engineering and math, known as STEM. What we need is a "Global STEM" initiative to provide an international context for these disciplines. A world language requirement would also help give workers the skills to promote exports and increase our global competitiveness. States similar in size, including Delaware and New Jersey, have developed their school curriculums to ready their students for international trade and competition in global markets.
•Building on Connecticut's strengths. The burgeoning alternative-energy industry and the high-end manufacturing of specialty products and biomedical equipment are strengths that we must exploit globally along with insurance, banking, tourism and education.
Connecticut has a long tradition of global trade. We must build on those "steady habits" that have made Connecticut a leader in an increasingly global economy.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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