Submitted by State Rep Livvy Floren (District 149)
Connecticut has one of most diverse economies in the country, but this fact is little known and seldom discussed. However, a multi-faceted business environment is a reason that our state has remained functional during one of the greatest fiscal challenges in history.
Our economy remains intact due to the ingenuity of companies attempting to break barriers and redefine the way business is done. The 149th District serves as a great example.
Greenwich and Stamford may be known for financial professionals and corporate leadership, but we are also home to a business so unique to the Constitution State that I wanted to share their story with you.
Blue Sky Studios, in Greenwich, is an animation production company that has brought us timeless classics such as Ice Age, Rio and The Peanuts Movie.
Recently, accompanied by fellow legislators Fred Camillo, Mike Bocchino, Carlo Leone and Dan Fox, I had the opportunity to tour their facilities and meet the talented professionals behind the magic.
The studio is unlike any office most of us have encountered. One moment you could be walking through a sea of cubicles hidden beneath a giant tiki hut and the next you could be standing on a replica of a pirate ship where two skilled animators are hard at work.
How often do we encounter people enjoying their work, and having some fun with it, too? Not often enough. Blue Sky has 500 employees in their 150,000 square-foot studio in positions such as accounting, programming, engineering, animation, human resources and marketing. They attract the brightest minds in the region with opportunities for the creative and the analytical. Blue Sky Studios is a company of the future.
The solution to our financial crisis is two-fold. First, we must offer more tax incentives to companies and reduce regulations where possible.
Major corporate players have moved on or have considered relocating outside Connecticut as a result of the uncertainty created by the budget deficit and burdensome fiscal policies.
The Digital Animation Tax Credit tipped the scale for Blue Sky Studios.
The program provides a maximum 30 percent tax credit to production companies that operate and employ at least 200 people in state. It is no secret that businesses will always seek the most favorable economic option. That option should always be Connecticut.
With that said, running a successful business isn’t simply about money. You need the right employees. Connecticut must prove that large cities are not the only source of top recruits.
We must produce a skilled workforce capable of competing for these coveted jobs. Innovative companies seek well trained employees, which is why education should be at the forefront of our agenda each year. We must invest heavily in education at all levels including our universities and technical schools.
Blue Sky offers internships in artistic/production and technical concentrations to students with a genuine interest in these areas. Schools such as UCONN/Stamford and Wright Tech have the means to train students to enter this line of work, which is why these schools need all the support we can offer. UCONN/Stamford now offers a Digital Media training program to prepare students for careers in production, and Wright Tech offers a four-year Digital Media curriculum. I commend their efforts and hope similar opportunities emerge in the coming years.
Creating a business friendly environment and improving our education system are not original ideas, but they are far from outdated. There is much potential in our home state, now is the time to unleash it. We have the ideas, we have the resources, and we have the opportunity. Now, we must follow through. Lights…cameras…jobs.