If we're so damned smart, to paraphrase an old punch line, why ain't we rich?
We are smart, at least by one metric. If we were to take an area about 120 miles long by 30 miles wide from New Haven to Greenfield, Mass., and call this our region, our region would comprise 41 universities and colleges with 215,000 students -- the second-highest concentration of academic power in the country (behind Boston).
This region has 2.77 million people, a workforce of 1.25 million, 64,000 businesses and a median household income of $58,165.
These are among the data released by the Hartford-Springfield Economic Partnership at its recent State of the Region conference in Windsor. For a dozen years, the partnership has worked to promote the region as "New England's Knowledge Corridor." The partnership used to define the region as ending at New Haven County, still a quite substantial area of 1.9 million hardy souls. But add New Haven County, and we become what would be, if officially designated, the 20th largest metropolitan region in the country.
It might seem a stretch to call so large an area a region. But it isn't, by national standards. In land area, it is smaller than the metros of Orlando, Austin, St. Louis and Denver. In population, it's comparable to Denver, St. Louis or Baltimore. It has more jobs than Raleigh or Charlotte. Median household income is higher than most comparable metros.
Also, the "Knowledge Corridor" shares an ecology -- the Connecticut River Valley -- a highway and rail corridor and a major airport. Lower New Haven County may lean more toward New York than Hartford, but north of there people tend to use Bradley Airport, work in Greater Hartford, go to UConn games, etc.
So, one might be tempted to ask, what do we get from creating this region? Hopefully, richer.
Douglas G. Fisher, executive director of the partnership and a driving force behind the "Knowledge Corridor" over the past dozen years, said the corridor is "a way to look at the significant market economy that exists between Boston and New York," a way to present the region to companies and entrepreneurs.
For years, Hartford and Springfield went their own ways because, after all, they were in different states. But most companies couldn't care less about state boundaries; they are interested in educated workers, transportation and commuting patterns, educational institutions, quality of life. So, said Mr. Fisher, who is also a marketing executive with the real estate firm Goman+York, the Knowledge Corridor is "a way to present data and talk to companies in a way they understand it."
The Hartford-Springfield Economic Partnership is a collaboration of planning, business, tourism and educational institutions that work to advance the region's economy. Formed in 2000, the partnership has done a lot of block-building work in marketing, business development, advocacy and research. To take one innovative example, the partnership developed a Web-based program called InternHere.com, which connects local college students with internships at employers in the region.
Now there is a chance to up the ante. In 2016, the new commuter rail service on the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield line begins, which should greatly enhance movement up and down the corridor. The Capitol Region Council of Governments, with a federal grant won by the partnership, has nearly completed a study of transit-oriented development in the corridor.
The study looks at the market potential of each station, and at the local land-use changes, if any, needed to achieve this potential. Another study is underway to help small and start-up businesses in the corridor. Both have great potential.
Connecticut officials have supported the Knowledge Corridor in principle; Massachusetts has supported it with grants to participating agencies. Unless Connecticut has a better plan, of which we are unaware, it too should back the Knowledge Corridor. It's not as if we don't desperately need economic growth.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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