Dita Bhargava, candidate for the 151st Assembly District, hosted a forum for owners of local companies to listen to concerns about owning and operating businesses in the state.
“I think the key to Connecticut’s economic future is to spur more business investment. To do that, we have to become more competitive,” Bharvaga said in a statement released after the forum. “And, even though I come to the table with some ideas of my own, nothing can replace hearing directly from those who are meeting payrolls and creating jobs every day.”
Bhargava, who is an engineering graduate with over two decades of experience in banking at several successful firms including Citibank, Citadel and RBS, said that in her career she worked with hundreds of companies. “Each day, my goal was to be their advocate and come up with solutions to their problems,” Bhargava said. “To do that, you have to put yourself in their shoes and understand the world from their perspective.”
Bhargava quoted Chris Hull, principal of CAH Architecture, who expressed concern that many people he knows who are moving out of town. He said his neighbor told him he didn’t know if he would stay in town because his son is graduating from high school and is moving to Maine.
Bhargava said Greenwich loses young people, particularly after they graduate from college.
“Many leave for university and don’t return to Connecticut. Studies show that if we can keep young people in the state for their first five working years, they are likely to put down roots and make Connecticut their home,” she said, adding that in response she is developing to alleviate the burden of student loan debt for recent graduates who start their careers in Connecticut. She said that that over time, this would grow the state’s tax base.
Bhargava cited a new Business News Daily study that pointed out the pros and cons of being a business owner in Connecticut. Specifically, she said Connecticut has a big advantage with its strategic location between two major metropolitan hubs, New York and Boston, giving companies easy access to those markets.
“When you combine that with its highly educated, productive and innovative workforce, Connecticut offers prospective employers an exceptionally talented labor pool,” she said, adding that translates into higher median incomes, and in turn, more patronage of small businesses.
Tarun Narula, owner of Mumbai Times restaurant in Cos Cob, told Bhargava that he moved back to Connecticut from Western Massachusetts. “In the Berkshires, the community is not as diverse. I have a daughter now that is 14 years old, so four years ago we decided to come back to Greenwich because it is more diverse, with more things for my daughter to do,” he said.
Bhargava said the drawbacks of the state as a place to do business, apart from its challenging fiscal situation, are its high taxes and the high cost of living. She quoted Sensei Jonathan Simon, owner of Greenwich Kempo, who said, ‘One of the hardest things for us is a lot of families are moving to the Carolinas. Just a lot of really great people that can’t afford to be here anymore. We invest a lot of time in our clients and it is just sad to see them go.’
Bhargava said there is a sense of urgency about addressing the high cost of living and high taxes. “It frustrates me, because Connecticut is holding so many great cards. We just need to play them better,” she said.
Bhargava referenced the Tax Foundation’s Business Climate Tax Index to put things in perspective. “For years, we have not been able to break out of the bottom 10, ranking 44th in 2016. I would like to take a look at how we could improve and simplify our entire state tax system. And, we need to do that with an eye toward bringing job-creating firms to our state.”
Bhargava said she would like Connecticut to accelerate its efforts to attract some key growth industries. “With our proximity to New York, it seems that FinTech (financial technology) would be a logical industry to recruit. We have the chance to re-invent our state for the 21st century,” she said. “We should be matching our highly skilled workforce with jobs in high value-added industries. There are so many possibilities, and with the right leadership, we can turn Connecticut back into a success story.”
Harry Arora, the founder and CEO of Arcim Advisors suggested that the process of re-invention would benefit from better policies. “We should provide advantages for start-ups like state business incubators or tax incentives,” he said during the roundtable. “So when you have people deciding to leave a company and start their own business, they will look to Connecticut as somewhere to move.”
Bhargava strongly agreed. “I was actually encouraged to see how much we are already doing. For example, the Connecticut Business Incubator Network connects start-ups with resources and organizations that help them succeed,” she said. “I have also seen first-hand the great work being done by the Women’s Business Development Council to help women start and grow their own businesses. In fact, I was surprised when I learned that my opponent voted against continued state funding of the WBDC. We need to protect the resources we have to help all of the state’s entrepreneurs. And, we need to create the right environment for them to thrive.”
This is Bhargava’s first run for state office. In addition to her twenty years of experience as a foreign exchange trader at several investment banks, Bhargava is also active in number of non-profits in the community. She sits on the board of the Urban League of Southern Connecticut, she is a founding board member of the Indian Cultural Center, and she is a founding director of The Parity Partnership. She and her husband have two young children and they live in Cos Cob.
Email news tips to Greenwich Free Press editor Leslie.Yager@GreenwichFreePress.com
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