Growing A Healthy Region
January 9, 2005
Hartford is headed in the right direction. The capital city continues
to be the economic engine for the region and the state. Hartford businesses
provide more than 106,000 jobs for Connecticut residents, the most of
any Connecticut town or city. According to a recent report prepared for
the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the Hartford metropolitan area's annual
economic activity (wages, sales and so on) of $73.7 billion is larger
than 90 percent of urban region economies in the United States. Our regional
economy is second only to San Francisco's regional economy in per-capita
The Hartford region is a major player in the national economy, particularly in
financial services. The growth and economic well-being of Connecticut is closely
linked to the health and vitality of Hartford. Recognizing that Hartford's highly
skilled employees and high-value businesses are more likely to be lured to other
parts of the country or globe than to suburban office parks in neighboring towns,
our region and state must willingly share in the obligation to improve the climate
for economic growth and greater opportunity in our capital city.
Under the first year of a reformed charter, the city council and I have made
significant strides in making city government more responsive and accountable.
We have pushed for the elimination of the surtax on commercial property. From
Park Street to Main Street to Albany Avenue, city government has provided critical
aid and leadership in hundreds of millions of dollars of new development in every
city neighborhood. We also demonstrated, through the $32 million Hilton Hotel
redevelopment effort, that attracting significant new private investment does
not have to come at the expense of quality jobs for Connecticut residents.
Hartford is safer than it was a year ago. Violent crime is down by double digits
in every category. The homicide rate is at its lowest point since 1992. Under
Police Chief Patrick J. Harnett's leadership, our police department is taking
a new approach to crime fighting, emphasizing information-based policing and
accountability for results. Hartford is making real headway on providing a safe
community in which to work, conduct business, live, worship and play.
I am also taking seriously our obligation to produce an educated workforce. Seventy-two
percent of Hartford jobs are held by workers with at least some college education.
I am bringing together colleges, universities, private and parochial secondary
schools with our public school system to raise expectations and increase the
number of Hartford students obtaining bachelor's degrees.
There are a number of practical steps the state and region can take to ensure
the continued economic growth of Hartford and our region:
Land acquisition by state government and regional nonprofits within Hartford
city limits must stop. Removing properties from the tax rolls reduces the city's
tax base, forecloses opportunities for private development and requires the city
to tax existing commercial properties at a higher rate.
The region must pursue planning and economic development policies that prioritize
commercial development in urban areas with existing physical infrastructure and
the business density to have a true multiplier effect. Sprawling commercial development
through suburban and rural towns saps scarce economic development resources and
dilutes the advantages gained from economies of scale.
Every town should make affordable housing - both homeownership and rental - key
to its housing strategy. Segregating thousands of low-income families into Hartford
increases such social ills here as crime and illiteracy. These ills cost the
region hundreds of millions of dollars in public services and lost productivity.
The future of the Hartford region does not lie in simply paving more miles of
road. Upgrading commuter rail, enhancing Bradley International Airport's capacity
and building alternatives to driving, such as trains and buses, between key business
centers are all attainable goals for our region in the next five to 10 years.
According to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the Hartford metropolitan area economy
is larger than the economies of 16 U.S. states. We will only grow that economy
with a vital urban core and healthy suburbs working together to improve our region's
quality of life.
Eddie Perez is mayor of Hartford. He will speak on this topic Tuesday morning
at the MetroHartford Alliance's Rising Star breakfast at The Bushnell's Autorino
Hall in Hartford. For more information, please call 525-4451, ext. 234.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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