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High-Tech Firms Need Nimble State


December 19, 2010

Although most established businesses want lower taxes and less regulation, this isn't necessarily the top desire of leaders of the fastest growing high-tech firms. These leaders require value: They can tolerate high costs if it buys high performance. Gov-elect Dan Malloy must recognize this distinction.

In the months ahead, deficit reduction will take most of the headlines, but the policies that will matter for the state in the long run will be about creating high-quality, sustainable jobs and supporting innovative business growth. The important actions will provide new revenue and reposition the state in the minds of people around the world. The issues will be about networks, attitude and strategically timed, targeted assistance.

Leaders of young, innovative businesses and fast-growing mature firms are critical to the future of the state for a simple reason: It turns out that almost all net job creation comes from just a very few new companies and, even rarer, innovative parts of older ones. Nearly half of all new jobs come from these fastest growing firms the so-called gazelles, which comprise a tiny percentage of all companies.

Rebuilding the right environment to keep and attract fast-growing firms is not impossible. A change of attitudes plus an inexpensive set of initiatives can put our state and our new governor on track to become a leader in innovation-oriented job creation something we were known for during the 100 years after the Civil War, but somehow lost a generation ago.

Some of these initiatives include:

The governor taking ownership for relationships with the state's gazelles.

Building an up-to-date database of recent investments in fast-growing, new companies and established companies with changing strategies, so the state can take advantage of trends and quickly adjust ecomonic programs to support these businesses.

Finding a relatively small amount of money to help Connecticut Innovations, cluster organizations and our research universities accelerate start-ups.

Marketing the state's advantages and technology success stories.

Connecticut must be both as networked and experimental as the entrepreneurial leaders we are recruiting. Failure to take these steps will not only hurt our chances at growth, but will jeopardize the groups of successful tech firms we have in the state today.

During the campaign, Malloy expressed support for the state's high-tech innovators. He has been a proactive leader who responded to Stamford's complex needs. We hope he will apply the same spirit of experimentation to the state's development apparatus. His intervention and support of new approaches and programs can make Connecticut a world-class home for fast-growing, innovation-oriented firms. Not only can a new attitude in economic development create a pipeline of high-quality jobs, it can also keep the growing firms we have now from seeking new homes in the future.

Matthew Nemerson is president of the Connecticut Technology Council. Casey R. Pickett, a graduate student at Yale's schools of Management and Forestry, led a research team interviewing CEOs of high-growth firms. Information on a report on making the state competitive for high growth companies is available at http://www.ct.org

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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