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[Editor’s note: The following letter has been written by Shari and Michael Cantor regarding Connecticut’s assets, perception, and outlook in light of GE’s announced departure from the state and other events.]
We love Connecticut! And that is why we are discouraged by the constant negativity we hear about our state. We need to stop disparaging this special place. Rather than sitting back and criticizing our current state of affairs, let’s work together to appreciate all that Connecticut offers while also taking the steps necessary to secure a promising and prosperous future.
Shari has served on the West Hartford Town Council for the past decade and as Deputy Mayor for the past five years. During this time, West Hartford has continued to be a successful, thriving, and diverse community, nationally recognized as such and a model for others. She is also a University of Connecticut Trustee. Michael is Co-Managing Partner of a global intellectual property law firm, which, using Hartford as its base, has grown from five lawyers in the 1990s to more than 120 today. He also serves as the Chairman of the Board of Connecticut Innovations, the state’s venture capital firm. Together we have traveled the world. We have met business leaders, policy makers, innovators and investors. Although we do not claim to be experts, given the talk surrounding GE’s announced departure, we feel strongly that rather than feel sorry for ourselves, it is time to focus on the great things we have in our state. More importantly, let’s focus on the straightforward policies that will propel Connecticut’s growth and success.
First, remember that Connecticut has amazing assets:
- A highly educated and productive work force
- World-class colleges and universities, both public and private, including UConn, Yale, Wesleyan, Trinity and many more
- Growing businesses in diverse industries, including aerospace, software, advanced manufacturing, alternative energy, insurance, finance, pharmaceutical, biotechnology and defense
- The only corridor between global powerhouses New York City and Boston
We believe the following five points are essential to making Connecticut what we know it is and can be:
- High speed internet. High speed internet is not a “nice to have,” it is a “must have.” It is simply the most critical tool required to be part of the 21st century global economy. Young people, employers, universities, entrepreneurs and innovators require at least 10 Gig capabilities at a reasonable cost, making this one criterion alone decisive in determining where people live and locate their businesses. We need this right now.
- Transportation. Our state is the corridor between two of the world’s most thriving urban centers. This puts Connecticut in a uniquely competitive position. While we are a stone’s throw away from New York and Boston, we offer a lower cost of living and a more relaxed life style. We need to leverage these assets by transforming transportation to allow people to easily work and live along this corridor. This is a draw for national and global innovators. The state needs to come together to actualize the vision presented by Governor Malloy. In so doing, we will transform the urban centers of Stamford, Bridgeport, New Haven, Hartford and Waterbury into thriving 21st century cities that will draw our youth and sustain our future.
- Perception is reality. Let’s do everything we can to change perceptions about Connecticut. Many people inside and outside of the state think that we are unfriendly to business. While we know that this is far from the truth, we also know we can do much better. We must take bold, aggressive, proactive and “out-of-the-box” steps to change the narrative of our state. This means we need to change some of our business regulations and corporate taxes so that the state is universally perceived as one that fosters job growth.
- Connection of universities to business. In this highly sophisticated and technical economy, we need to strengthen the relationships between our educational institutions and our state’s technologies and businesses. The relationship between The Jackson Laboratory, UConn and Yale is an example of what is possible, and is an incredible platform for economic growth. These relationships are engines for job creation and retention, and they need to be replicated throughout the state.
- We need to be the biggest advocates, not the biggest critics of our state. Too many of Connecticut residents are bitter and self-loathing about our state. This trait, peculiar to Connecticut, is exacerbated by the constant negative refrain by much of our press, politicians, and business leaders. How can others see what we have to offer if we ourselves are so disparaging of our communities? This must stop. Connecticut is made up of intelligent, innovative, hardworking, demanding, committed, generous and enlightened people. Let’s make this our message about Connecticut.
We are better than the way we are being presented. It is time to quit bashing and start advocating.
-Shari and Michael Cantor
West Hartford, Connecticut
Shari Cantor is the Deputy Mayor of the Town of West Hartford and a Trustee of The University of Connecticut.
Michael Cantor is Co-Managing Partner of Cantor Colburn LLP, a global intellectual property law firm based in Hartford, Connecticut and is the Chairman of the Board of Connecticut Innovations, a quasi-public state economic development agency.