TRUMBULL, Conn. — Trumbull is taking a new, more aggressive posture toward business — with the motto “Trumbull Is Working For You” replacing a more modest “Open for Business.”
With that in mind, Trumbull Director of Economic Development Rina Bakalar welcomed 150 people for breakfast last week at the Trumbull Marriott to thank them for their contributions, and to hear from Peter Gioia, economist for Connecticut Business & Industry Association, on the state’s economy and its challenges.
First Selectman Tim Herbst opened the Trumbull's Economic Development Breakfast, telling the group that the town is a “partner, not an adversary” for business, that “we provide a concierge level of service,” that the commercial Grand List has grown by 10.5 percent over the last six years, and that the town’s financial condition is “very strong.”
Gioia called the state’s economy “significantly improved since the Great Recession of 2007.”
“I’m extremely bullish,” he said, pointing out that the state has enormous economic potential.
But the biggest downside is “public policies that come out of Hartford, particularly in controlling our fiscal situation,” he said.
But one big plus for the state is the growth of manufacturing. Gov. Dannel Malloy signed an agreement that will keep Sikorsky in Stratford and create thousands of jobs over the next 10 years.
And that will feed many, many subcontractors. Some 1,000 subcontractors produce about 80 percent of Pratt & Whitney’s aircraft engines and half of the products Sikorsky and Electric Boat make. And every direct job creates two to five others.
About the economy, Gioia said the state has “a very benign interest rate environment, with enormous amounts of credit available. … This helps housing … which is beginning to recover. … Starts are up, and prices are beginning to appreciate.”
He also pointed out that consumers are spending, and gas prices are far lower than in 2014.
Gioia said 60 percent of small businesses say they expect to add jobs in next 12 months, and three-quarters are producing a new product or service every year.
Looking ahead, he called next month's election of members of the General Assembly important because it “directly affects you, your business and your family.”
Will the new legislature help create jobs and grow businesses, or will it introduce “crazy bill after crazy bill” that end up worrying businesses and influencing companies to invest elsewhere? From the business side, a more predictable and reasonable fiscal approach is needed, Gioia said.
The greatest of our challenges is “a self-inflicted wound, our state budget deficit,” he said. Malloy and the legislature made the right decision last year by eliminating a $900 million-plus deficit without a tax increase.
Responding to a question about challenges, he called for increased support for education, particularly in the STEM fields, and continued investment in our existing businesses — financial services, bioscience and manufacturing — which, in turn, create retail, services and health care jobs. “If they’re not healthy there’s no way the rest of the economy can be healthy,” Gioia said.
He called the development of technical schools “critical” given that Pratt & Whitney, Sikorsky and EB will hire 20,000 people over the next 10 years, plus those hired by subcontractors.
The final order of business the presentation of the Corporate Success Award to Robert Scinto. Herbst commended Scinto, a commercial real estate property developer, for the “quality and excellence of his projects.”
Accepting the award, Scinto offered another take on Connecticut’s economy. “Not one of my 335 tenants has asked for more space over the past year, and half wanted less,” he said. He blamed this on the state’s “death tax … the No.1 problem … You “don’t want to die in Connecticut.”