Submitted by Kathleen Stowe, Democratic candidate for the 149th state representative district of Greenwich and Stamford
This campaign season we are hearing a lot of complaints about our local economy, but little fundamental analysis on how we can improve it. That’s what I will do because that’s what I’ve always done when faced with a challenge, in business and in life. I assess a problem and work pragmatically to fix it.
So first, let’s think about what we have here in Connecticut. We have a great state with a long, proud history. We have a tremendous location, sitting in the heart of the region with the largest economic output in the world. We have a highly educated workforce and a diverse economic base with leaders in manufacturing, high tech businesses and financial services.
At the same time we have challenges. We have an economy that hasn’t grown to its full potential. We have long term costs in debt and pensions that eat up too much of our state budget.
We all know the state can be more efficient. We need to find savings wherever we can. In my decades in business, I’ve been laser focused on the bottom line. In my years on the school board, I’ve reviewed every line item of spending. But we aren’t going to fix our problems by pinching pennies alone. It is an old adage in business that you can’t cut your way to growth. If we stopped at cost cuts, we will have failed. The most important goal is to keep growing our state.
We are at a unique moment in time. Decades of gravitational pull to dense urban centers is reversing. The pandemic has revealed and accelerated the de-centralization of the economy. Businesses are learning they can operate from a variety of locations and with a more distributed workforce. Families are re-discovering the joys of the suburbs. The millennial generation is starting families and looking for the right places to put down roots. This is the moment for Connecticut.
Let’s invest to build and maintain a state that can nurture its own population and businesses and that can attract more to come. To attract and retain families, the formula is simple. We need strong schools, a healthy environment, a robust economy and prudent fiscal management. Education and environment are investments that improve our lives today and create long-term value. Prudent fiscal management means minimizing the tax burden and being able to demonstrate to people that their tax dollars are invested in meaningful projects which benefit the community.
Attracting businesses is similar. I’ve run and built companies so I know how they think and what they seek. Maximizing value means a lot more than just immediate finances. Businesses come and stay where they are welcome and where they are nurtured. Businesses grow on capital and employees.
They want strong communities with great schools where they are happy to bring their families and where they can find tomorrow’s skilled employees. We sit at a nexus of global finance, providing ready access to capital. We have many of the key ingredients but we can enhance them. I would propose a few steps:
Enhance our economic development effort. We need to have a proactive effort that provides holistic solutions for new and growing businesses.
• Streamline bureaucracy and regulations. Make this a welcoming place for responsible businesses.
• Expand our state venture capital effort to provide the seed capital to nurture small businesses.
We have world-class universities here. Let’s harness that talent into building Connecticut businesses.
• Targeted tuition reimbursement for students who stay and build careers in Connecticut. Let’s build a stronger workforce in state.
• Temporary tax breaks for start-up businesses.
These are modest, specific programs that will spur growth. As in business, growing the top line is critical. By growing our economy and our workforce, by bringing new families and new businesses to the state, we grow our tax base. We can maintain or reduce tax rates while improving our state’s fiscal position.
Taken together, we can conquer the fiscal challenges we face. And these measures will reinforce each other. Growing the economy lowers the tax burden for every individual citizen and company. An improving fiscal position provides more flexibility to invest in the schools and infrastructure that support our communities. And stronger communities encourage further growth.
These are achievable solutions. They require effective leadership and an ability to work across diverse constituencies. As a proven leader in business and in the community, I can help drive these improvements for the state.
Kathleen Stowe is the Democratic candidate for the 149th state representative district of Greenwich and Stamford. More information can be found on kathleenstowe.com