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Agenda 2013: State Should Push New Industries

Hartford Courant Editorial

December 28, 2012

This is the second in a series of legislative agendas for 2013.

Economically speaking, Connecticut is not poised to spike the ball in the end zone in 2013. With wages flat, unemployment still high and Europe floundering, most economists see little improvement here until the second half of the year, if then.

One way to respond is to build the industries of tomorrow, the new economic engines that will add jobs and rekindle prosperity. In 2013 the state needs to become one big incubator, growing as many kinds of 21st-century businesses as we can. Some of this work is under way, in areas such as:

•Technology. Manufacturing has always been a backbone of the state's economy, but most of the old smokestack industries have given way to high-tech production. In 2012, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced the launch of Connecticut's "Innovation Ecosystem," a public-private partnership aimed at developing new products and industries. It will offer financial, technical, professional and mentoring resources at hubs in Hartford, New Haven, Stamford and Storrs.

This will complement the work being doing by such organizations as the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute, which has nurtured dozens of start-up companies in the past six years; Science Park, the state's most successful business incubator; the IP Factory, which mines the private sector for viable technological research that the companies aren't using; the Connecticut Technology Council, which advocates for tech companies; and the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology, which is developing new aerospace products; and others.

In 2013, the challenge will be to connect the micro-dots, get these various efforts working together to create synergy for more development.

•Biotech. January will bring the groundbreaking for the 198,000-square-foot Jackson Laboratory building on the UConn Health Center campus in Farmington. This is the latest step in a process begun in the 1990s of clustering bioscience and medical device industries in the state, an effort that drew more than half of the $1.2 billion in venture capital invested in the state between 2005 and 2011, according to the Connecticut Business & Industry Association.

The hope is that the new Jackson Laboratory, supported by funds from Gov. Malloy's Bioscience Connecticut initiative, will create at least 600 research-related jobs and thousands of spin-off jobs. Jackson was drawn by UConn and Yale researchers who are already ensconced in sophisticated stem cell, genomic and imaging research. A major goal of this effort is personalized medicine, treatment developed by studying a patient's genetic makeup and background, which has vast growth potential.

In the related area of health care, the MetroHartford Alliance in 2012 formed the Connecticut Health Council to promote the state as a "premier center for the development of businesses, initiatives and technology that improve health care." Building this already strong sector will create jobs for a wide spectrum of workers and improve the quality of health care.

•Transit-Oriented Development. Sometimes where businesses locate can help grow a local economy. As we see in dozens of cities across the country, mixed-use development around transit stops — transit-oriented development — increases jobs, development and property values, and reduces the costs of associated with sprawl.

State and local officials have begun a push to develop TOD, as it is known, around the stations on the CTfastrak busway between Hartford and New Britain and the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield commuter rail line, where service will begin in two and three years, respectively. Meriden, Wallingford, Windsor, Windsor Locks and some other cities have begun to plan development near their stations.

The real challenge, the sword from the stone, is to bring more work to our urban areas, where unemployment is highest. Gov. Malloy has invested in urban business; there are training and other programs, but the problems persist. These cities were once manufacturing centers. Perhaps through public-private partnerships there are ways to start factories that can employ large numbers of city residents.

This would not only help the people, it would reduce state expenditures in criminal justice, welfare and social services. That would be a touchdown.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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