In the past few weeks, I have toured more than a dozen North Haven businesses and spent hours talking with their owners and employees in an effort to better understand their needs and how my work in the legislature can make a positive impact. While each company has specific needs, there are several things that every employer, large or small, shares. As owner of a small business in North Haven myself, many of their concerns did not come as a shock. However, a few issues kept coming up and I thought they were important to mention.
At the top of the list is the uncertainty Connecticut businesses face with regard to state regulations. Many employers I spoke with said it’s very difficult to plan one, two or three years in advance when they’re not sure what new restrictions or taxes will be levied from year to year. Considering most companies work on a five- to seven-year plan, these problems are even more apparent.
Second on the list was the difficulty in finding quality employees, especially considering the cost of living here in Connecticut. We are home to some of the best colleges in the country, yet many of our young people leave the state as soon as they collect their diplomas. It’s hard for a small company to recruit and retain good employees, especially recent college graduates, when they can take a job in another state and make less in salary but have a better standard of living.
Third, high utility costs are hampering businesses ability to expand and implement new technologies. One of the larger North Haven manufacturers I visited said they pay more than three times the rate for electricity as they do in South Carolina, where they have another facility. Those costs add up and create little incentive to invest here.
What do we do?
We need to focus on the many family-run companies already operating here and help them not only survive, but also thrive. We must find a way to keep our young people here, reduce taxes and work to provide incentives to retain the businesses we have. Then, and only then, will we start to see new companies moving into the state.
It’s been said a rising tide lifts all boats. Well, if we stabilize our tax structure, reduce onerous business regulations, streamline the permitting process and provide true incentives for opening a business here, we won’t need to chase down new employers — they’ll be banging down our doors to get in.
One step in the right direction is the Learn Here, Live Here law passed this past session. This law will allow recent graduates of Connecticut’s public institutions of higher education to set aside a portion of their state tax liability to use as a down payment on their first Connecticut home. Programs like this one provide important incentives that can tip the scale in Connecticut’s favor when our youth are looking.
The bottom line is that we must have better communication between state government and local companies and we need to focus more on education. I pledged to be a voice for your concerns and I will continue to work hard to do what’s right not only for the people of North Haven, but also Connecticut. Please call if you would like to meet with me.
State Rep. David Yaccarino represents the 87th district covering North Haven.