With Many Encouraging Signs, What’s Next for Businesses in Connecticut?September 24, 2013
There are some positive developments on Connecticut’s business landscape right now–companies expanding, businesses investing in new technologies and employee training, exports on the rise. And they have people feeling somewhat optimistic about our state’s economic future.
For the 12th year in a row, the Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA) and BlumShapiro recently released the Survey of Connecticut Businesses, which serves as a snapshot of how our state’s business leaders are feeling about doing business in Connecticut. And this year’s report, without question, builds on the gradual momentum we’ve seen since the state’s economy reached its nadir in 2009.
The signs are all there. More companies are forecasting that they will break even in 2013, and those forecasting a net loss are at the lowest level in several years. Hiring expectations for 2014 are positive, and exports are well on the rise–nearly four out of every five manufacturers surveyed say they are now exporting goods, and they also indicate that those exports are a significant portion of their overall business.
Then there is the high quality of life that businesses continue to find in Connecticut, the factor that companies across the board rate once more as the single biggest positive about operating in Connecticut. It’s a nice place to live–family life, schools, easy access to Boston and New York and the proximity to so many other businesses and thought leaders–all add up to this being our state’s number one asset.
What’s more, manufacturing in Connecticut continues to make good strides. A colleague has referred to our manufacturing base as the “shining star” of our state’s economy, and with good reason. Our state is home to world-class companies that continue to innovate and expand in international trade, as well as provide a top-notch, knowledge-based workforce. The investments that the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) has made in our manufacturing base, as well as the investments the state has made in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education is paying off and needs to continue.
These are all good signs. The question now is this: will that momentum be allowed to flourish? The answer remains to be seen.
Despite the encouraging signs, doubts still linger. More specifically, there is one large doubt that seems to hover over everything we have seen and heard from businesses over the past year. Connecticut is still viewed, this year more than ever, as a state that is unfriendly to business. And with a perception like that, optimism can easily be tempered.
The outside world is not only aware of this perception, but taking actions to capitalize on it. Nearly one-third of the businesses surveyed this year say they have been approached by other states in the last five years about relocating or expanding, with most activity occurring in the past 12 months. Additionally, more than half of the manufacturers surveyed have received offers from other states. This is a trend we simply cannot ignore.
The key now is to keep building on the progress made over the past four years, but also to take direct action to begin to mitigate this persistent feeling of negativity so many businesses seem to have about Connecticut. This can be done by making sure the business community is part of the dialogue on how we make our state a better place. This has to happen at every level and in every sector. Government leaders and business leaders need to talk with one another and work jointly on that path forward.
Our state has emerged from the dark days of four years ago and is showing signs of being ready to thrive. It is simply imperative that we create the proper business climate in order for our companies to continue to profit and succeed in Connecticut.
Thomas DeVitto is Chief Marketing Officer with BlumShapiro, the largest regional accounting, tax and business consulting firm based in New England, with offices in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The firm, with 360 professionals and staff, offers a diversity of services which includes auditing, accounting, tax and business advisory services. In addition, BlumShapiro provides a variety of specialized consulting services such as succession and estate planning, business technology services, employee benefit plan audits, litigation support and valuation, and financial staffing. The firm serves a wide range of privately held companies, government and non-profit organizations and provides non-audit services for publicly traded companies.