What can Connecticut do to keep these numbers moving in the right direction?
For more than a century, Connecticut has been an established leader in manufacturing. Beginning with the pioneering work of visionaries like Samuel Colt, Igor Sikorsky and Frederick Rentschler, and bridging all the way to the present day’s high-tech economy, Connecticut has always been a state to which the best and the brightest in the manufacturing workforce have gravitated.
The challenge now, of course, is for Connecticut to maintain its position as a national leader, and the good news is that our state is well-positioned to keep that legacy going. And while the first decade of the 21st century showed significant decline in manufacturing jobs in Connecticut, the workforce news of the past few years has been much more encouraging, with the industry showing steady job growth since late 2016.
There are more than 4,000 manufacturing companies located in Connecticut, employing roughly 161,000 individuals, paying nearly $15 billion in wages and contributing hundreds of millions annually to the state’s tax revenue stream. These are good jobs that require top-level talent, paying an average of more than $95,000 a year. Clearly, this remains an industry that is critical to Connecticut’s economic success.
So what can Connecticut do to keep these numbers moving in the right direction?
For starters, State leaders can continue to bolster the state’s economy through preparing and retaining our future workforce. In addition to its close proximity to Boston and New York and its high per capita income, one major asset Connecticut has always is its excellent schools—this is where the workers of tomorrow are prepared. The State has continually made sound investments in its technical high schools through job training, apprenticeship programs and more, and it extends into college as well, where numerous community colleges offer manufacturing programs that are essential to growing our workforce.
Connecticut is also fortunate to have ready access to capital, which can assist manufacturing startups is growing and remaining here.
Another path towards success is close collaboration with the State’s government, in the form of research and development tax credits which create the foundation for future innovation right here at home. R&D supremacy is essential this day and age for any state which desires to remain a manufacturing leader, and a partnership with those businesses which want to grow here—including incentives for technological innovation, investment in facilities and workforce development—will only enhance the State’s standing as a major manufacturing hub.
This investment in education and collaboration with State government becomes even more imperative when considering Connecticut continues to have an aging workforce that could see a large percentage of retirements in the next decade. A recent report showed that 35% of Connecticut’s manufacturing jobs are held by people aged 55 or over, workers who are difficult to replace in terms of know-how and institutional knowledge. Therefore, readying the next generation for careers in manufacturing and keeping them here once they enter the workforce, becomes an even greater priority for the state.
Again, signs continue to point in the right direction for Connecticut to remain a manufacturing powerhouse. The state has weathered the Great Recession, hiring is up and many of our companies are making it clear they would like to remain here. If the State can build on this momentum, we have every reason to believe that Connecticut can remain just as important to the nation’s manufacturing industry as it always has been.
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