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(Hartford) - For those of us in Connecticut, it's always troubling when we see our state ranked poorly in any national study. It is particularly concerning to me when our business climate receives poor grades, because a competitive business climate is essential for job growth and sustaining a high quality of life.
Despite the fact that Connecticut is home to many world-class companies, and its performance based on important metrics — such as workforce productivity and exports — is excellent, many national publications say Connecticut is not a good place to do business. In June, for example, CNBC released its annual America's Top States for Business study that ranked Connecticut as the 46th best state to do business, down from the previous year, when we were 45th.
Forbes has yet to release its yearly Best States for Business index, but last year we finished at No. 33.
The CNBC and Forbes studies are just a few examples of national business climate rankings that often use different metrics to assess the economic competitiveness of each state. They generally analyze states' business costs, regulatory climate, transportation infrastructure, education initiatives, and more.
For years, Connecticut has shown a need for improvement.
Our rankings reflect policy decisions over the years that have increased business costs and jeopardized jobs and opportunities for those who work and live here.
On average, the United States has recovered all jobs lost during March 2008-February 2010 economic downturn. By contrast Connecticut has recovered only 62 percent of jobs lost during that period.
Many states are making great strides, creating vibrant state economies that invite and encourage private business and spur investment. Connecticut lags behind.
Now, however, we have an opportunity for Connecticut to finally realize its full potential.
We have good, well-paying jobs. According to a 2013 report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, less than 1 percent of people employed in the state earn the minimum wage or less.
We rank among the top in the nation for our education systems, even as we keep working to close our achievement gap.
We have one of the most highly productive workforces in the country and an exciting network of innovative companies driving advances in Connecticut's key economic base industries: manufacturing, bioscience, aerospace, medical technology, insurance, financial services, and others.
We rightfully acknowledge and celebrate Connecticut's strengths. However, we also must address our weaknesses, because ultimately, our strengths won't be enough to elevate Connecticut to an elite level of economic competitiveness.
More than 60 organizations, businesses, and associations have joined together to raise awareness of these issues and lift Connecticut in the national rankings.
The CT20x17 campaign is a multi-year effort designed to place Connecticut within the top 20 across a range of national economic competitiveness rankings by 2017.
Improving Connecticut's economy doesn't just help business. It touches every community, every neighborhood, and every family in our state.
A vibrant economy means more money for education, more money for towns and cities, and more money to fix state highways and bridges. It means more and better opportunities for our children.
We can get there, Connecticut.
Our road to a brighter future starts with a conversation among friends and colleagues. Ask your local candidates what they would do to improve Connecticut's economy. After Election Day, make sure to hold your local state senator and representative accountable.
Connecticut's success requires both political parties to work together. The economy is not a Republican or Democratic issue.
It is a Connecticut issue and it's your issue. It's too important to ignore.
Our future depends on it.
Jim Torgerson is the president and chief executive officer of UIL Holdings Corp., the parent company of The United Illuminating Co., Southern Connecticut Gas Co., and Connecticut Natural Gas. He chairs the Connecticut Business & Industry Association's board of directors and the Connecticut Institute for the 21st Century.