Despite Connecticut facing another year of difficult budgetary talks, there seems to be some positive developments on the horizon. Much more than in previous years, the public and private sectors are making the effort to talk with one another and work together on potential solutions for economic development. This is good news — we have a much better chance of seeing a beneficial outcome if all parties in Connecticut attempt to be on the same page.
The Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA) has implemented an enhanced program to get businesses and lawmakers talking with each other this year. It is called "Adopt a Legislator," and connects individual business owners with lawmakers in an attempt to facilitate an understanding of the needs of Connecticut businesses and the challenges the state is facing.
Additionally, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has teamed up with CBIA to visit businesses and promote smart economic development. These are both smart strategies, which foster the spirit of collaboration and can lead to genuine progress.
For years Connecticut has had a reputation of being less friendly to businesses and economic development, but it doesn't have to remain that way. There are numerous recent examples of the business community working with municipalities to find pathways to shared success. The key is thinking local; this is where so many of the best ideas for public-private collaborations originate, and success at the local level will no doubt have a strong impact on the entire state.
Bristol is a prime example, where the expansive development of ESPN has had a profound effect on the overall success of the city. Municipalities such as Southington and New Britain have engaged in campaigns to promote themselves in holistic ways, from residential life to social life to business development.
In West Hartford, the success of the town's center and adjoining Blue Back Square shows what can happen when government works with the business community.
In Bloomfield, a recent influx of new businesses has led to an increase in housing, which is yielding positive results across the board. These are real-time, real-world examples of how collaboration can work, and these efforts can be replicated throughout the state.
The natural starting point for the business and public sectors is a very simple one, but one whose importance cannot be overstated — they need to communicate. They need to be speaking with one another, finding shared challenges and pain points and considering shared opportunities and solutions.
Progress can never occur in a vacuum; in fact, the opposite is true. Economic development can only work with an open dialogue between our business leaders and our political leaders. And the tone being set this year by the CBIA, state government leaders and local government leaders working more closely together shows just how possible this really is.
The formula is simple: Connection rather than division, partnership rather than working in a vacuum, and a strategic approach between the public and private sectors that sets clear goals and strategies to achieve them.
Business friendliness and sound government policy do not have to be mutually exclusive concepts. The key should be embracing these positive changes we are now seeing and building on them.
Our entire state, and every sector within it, will benefit from it.
Vanessa E. Rossitto is a partner with West Hartford accounting firm BlumShapiro and director of the firm's government services group.