The path to economic growth in CT

As seen in The Hartford Business Journal

September 17, 2018
R. Michael Goman

We’ve recently seen the work of something called the Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth, a taskforce consisting of 14 CEOs who worked on identifying and coming up with solutions to the structural problems facing state government.

Good idea, good folks and good beginning, but there’s much more work to be done.

In a previous column, I advocated for engaging the people who are running companies in Connecticut, dealing with regulations and making payroll every week, in a dialogue about how to make it easier for them to expand and operate their businesses in Connecticut.

The idea is to convene groups of operating leaders from each industry sector and get them to talk to our public officials about what it would take for them to invest more capital here in Connecticut. And by talking to them, I don’t mean an occasional conference where a few public officials present the government initiatives that are available, or a conference where 150 people from an industry get together to network.

What I’d like to try is a broad series of small, industry-specific working meetings, held in a series of working conference rooms. If these meetings are to be productive, we have to start by building a rapport, which, if we do this right, will build trust and respect between business managers and public officials.

Most importantly, we need to get all sides of the discussion believing that they can help each other and thereby help the state. We need to get to the point where the industry people candidly talk to our public officials about what can be done to make it more attractive for people in their industry to invest in Connecticut.

Ideally, our public officials will leave each meeting with a task list of workable ideas for changing the current patterns that we seem to be locked into.

There are several important points for this to work. First, we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. We need to try some ideas without fearing that they might not work exactly as planned. Allowing that to happen would simply continue the current paralysis.

Second, we have to be focused on making many small changes. Big ideas are great but take much more time and resources to implement, and they tend to attract resistance.

In comparison, the small ones are quick and easy to make, and they rapidly add up to real change. A series of small but rapidly implemented changes also sends an important message, signaling movement in the right direction.

Third, the hope is that small changes can be made at the rule-making and processing level.

The objective isn’t to subvert the law or intent of the legislature. Instead, this assumes that simple changes can be made that will make it easier, faster and less costly for business people to follow regulations.

An added benefit is that our regulators will learn a lot from these discussions. This increased knowledge will position them to better help those industries that want to grow. We want our regulators to see that they can play an important role in helping our businesses add jobs and pay more taxes.

We’ll be going in the right direction if we convene a dozen or more of these working groups, representing a broad cross-section of operating leadership from financial services, insurance, aerospace, shipbuilding, high-tech and clean manufacturing, advanced genomics, health sciences, health care and bio-medical companies, and focus the participants on working together to simplify, reduce or eliminate unnecessary, redundant or duplicative rules and regulations.

Investment capital, like water or electricity, follows the path of least resistance. We can reduce our resistance by simplifying our regulatory environment.