’P-20 Council’ seeks to address skills gap for entry-level workers
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has signed an executive order revitalizing the objectives and updating the membership of the state’s P-20 Council to strengthen the state’s public-education system so that students are prepared with the skills needed in the job market.
Originally created in 2009 by then-Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s Executive Order No. 2A, the P-20 Council is a team of stakeholders comprising representatives from four sectors: early childhood education; elementary and secondary schools; higher education; and the workforce and business community. The group charges representatives from those sectors with collaborating on a public-policy framework that integrates components of the state’s education system with economic and workforce development opportunities.
“Connecticut’s future economic success depends on a well educated workforce,” Malloy said in announcing the initiative. “Beginning with early childhood education and continuing through a strong postsecondary education, students must learn the skills they need to compete so we can meet the needs of employers who are looking to grow their businesses or relocate.
“The P-20 Council is an important component of how our state can provide a comprehensive education system that prepares all students to succeed,” Malloy added. “Through today’s executive order, we are giving the council a stronger voice and a more influential role in the policymaking process.”
Malloy’s Executive Order No. 20 restructures the group to reflect and capitalize on recent state agency reorganizations and reinvigorates its functions following the enactment of the major bipartisan education reform initiatives the legislature passed and the governor signed into law in May.
“Last year on my Jobs Tour, I heard time and again from employers about the need for skilled labor, particularly in high-skilled manufacturing,” said Malloy. “At a time when many of our residents are looking for work, it’s frustrating to know that positions are available, but we don’t always have the workforce necessary to fill them.
“This is about creating opportunities for existing Connecticut companies to expand, attracting new employers, and growing good-paying jobs with good benefits for our state’s residents,” he added.
Malloy is scheduled to convene the reconstituted group’s initial meeting on November 30.
$2.2 billion plan pushes ‘cleaner, cheaper’ energy
HARTFORD — On October 5 the state’s Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP) made public a draft of its first-ever “Comprehensive Energy Strategy” for Connecticut. The document offers an assessment of the state’s current energy circumstances and offers a road map toward what Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has advocated — a “cheaper, cleaner and more reliable energy future.
The so-called draft strategy offers recommendations in five areas: energy efficiency, energy supply including renewable power, industrial energy needs, transportation, and natural gas.
The reform package calls for a $2.2 billion expansion of the state’s natural gas distribution system and nearly doubling the number of Connecticut households that use natural gas to power their homes.
The document is a response to milestone energy legislation passed in June 2011. Public Act 11-80 requires DEEP, in consultation with the Connecticut Energy Advisory Board, to prepare a comprehensive energy strategy for the state every three years.
An executive summary of the strategy draft contains a fundamental contradiction. On the one hand the plan “moves away from subsidizing favored technologies or companies toward a flexible ‘finance’ model that encourages entrepreneurship and private-sector leadership” in future energy projects.
At the same time the strategy “builds on the fundamental premise that the public’s interest in and commitment to clean energy depends on the emergence of new technologies that out-compete fossil-fuel alternatives.” That language appears to stack the deck in favor of “cleaner” over “cheaper.”
Nevertheless, the draft promises to “harness market forces and competitive pressures” to spur innovation in 21st century energy solutions.
The draft strategy was welcomed by many elements of the business community.
"The governor is linking cleaner, cheaper, more reliable energy with economic growth, job creation, and a healthier environment," said John Rathgeber, president and CEO of the Connecticut Business & Industry Association (CBIA), the state’s largest business group. "And by doing that, he's creating the opportunity to turn a significant economic disadvantage into a competitive advantage.
"Connecticut's high energy costs place a real burden on the state's economy, particularly the manufacturing sector,” Rathgeber added. “If we're going to grow our economy, become more competitive, and create jobs, we must change how we access, distribute, and consume energy."
Rathgeber said the business community supports flexible, economically achievable goals for renewable energy that allowed markets, not government, to determine winners and losers, as well as improving Connecticut's energy transmission and distribution infrastructure
DEEP will hold a series of public hearings to take oral testimony on any aspect of the draft strategy. Locally, hearings will take place at 6 p.m. November 9 in Room G-2 of the Hall of Records at 200 Orange Street in New Haven, as well as at 6 p.m. November 14 in the Common Council Chambers of City Hall, 45 Lyon Terrace, Bridgeport.
Connecticut and two other New England states are among the ten financially worst for seniors and retirees, according to Kiplinger magazine.
Kiplinger.com says in its most recent edition that it took into account taxes that older Americans pay on income, Social Security benefits and sales and property taxes.
Among New England states, Connecticut was joined on the “worst” list by Rhode Island and Vermont. The only Northeast state to make the “friendly tax” list was Pennsylvania.
Who gets what from Malloy’s sweetest deal
At press time, eight companies have become part of the First Five Program, an initiative proposed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to offer financial incentives to the first five companies each creating at least 200 new full-time jobs in Connecticut over two years, or investing $25 million in the state and creating 200 new jobs over five years.
Malloy wanted the program to bring new companies to Connecticut and to retail businesses that already are in the state, encouraging them to maintain and grow their current job levels. The General Assembly passed legislation creating the First Five Program last year, and Malloy signed the bill into law in July 2011.
The program — funded through the state’s Department of Economic ‡ Community Development — the was variously redesignated First Five Plus, then Next Five, as companies beyond the initial quintet of businesses were added. Below is a brief assessment of each of the corporate beneficiaries of the program.
Business Activity: Global health service and financial company whose U.S. subsidiaries provide a variety of health services, including medical, dental, pharmacy, vision and behavioral health-care benefits. It also offers group life, disability and accident insurance. Services are offered in 29 countries and jurisdictions throughout the world.
Annual Revenues: $25 billion
First Five Deal: Cigna will establish its headquarters in Bloomfield and will add a minimum of 200 jobs within two years, bringing the number of jobs the company provides in the state to more than 4,000, and spend at least $100 million in Connecticut. The state will provide a minimum of $47 million in incentives, with the amount increasing as more jobs are created. The initial investment includes: a $15 million, zero-interest, forgivable loan; $2 million in grants that can be used for worker training or relocation costs; and tax credits up to 70 percent of the company’s corporate income tax from the fourth through tenth years (estimated value $30 million).
Business Activity: Multinational sports entertainment company encompassing a host of television, radio and web-based enterprises. The company is owned by ABC Inc. (majority) and the Hearst Corp.
First Five Deal: In exchange for expanding its Bristol sports media complex and creating at least 200 new full-time jobs over five years, ESPN will receive a $17.5 million, ten-year loan and up to $1.2 million for a job training grant program (the actual amount will depend on how many jobs are created). Also, expected sales and use tax exemptions on construction materials and capital equipment are valued at up to $6 million.
Company: NBC Sports Group, NBC Universal
Business Activity: Operations include NBC Sports, NBC Olympics, NBC Sports Digital, NBC Sports Network and the Comcast Sports Management Group.
First Five Deal: The company will centralize its Northeast operations in new studios and offices, which it will create in Stamford at the 32-acre site of the former Clairol factory. It pledges create 450 new jobs, with more expected as future growth takes shape. Assistance in the form of a 1.0-percent, $20 million loan from the state would be forgiven if the jobs are created and the company spends at least $100 million in the state.
Company: Alexion Pharmaceuticals
Location: New Haven
Business Activity: The biopharmaceutical company manufactures products to targeted to disorders that are rare and life threatening.
Annual Revenues: $950 million
First Five Deal: Alexion will move its global headquarters to New Haven, relocating an existing Cheshire-based workforce of more than 350 employees to the Elm City. The company will build a new facility in New Haven’s Downtown Crossing development at 100 College Street. The $100 million construction project will include office, research retail and parking space. The state is providing the company with a one-percent, ten-year $20 million loan, deferred for five years and totally or partially forgiven if 200 to 300 full-time jobs are created; tax credits of up to $25 million; and a $6 million grant for laboratory equipment and construction.
Business Activity: CareCentrix is a benefits management company focused on managing home-based care by providing and coordinating services such as home nursing, home infusion, home medical equipment and sleep testing. Affiliated centers and home healthcare providers are located throughout the country.
First Five Deal: The company will expand and move its headquarters from East Hartford to Hartford, an estimated $86 million project. The company also will keep all 213 current employees and create 290 more jobs within five years. It would receive from the state up to a total of $24 million in grants over five years.
Company: Sustainable Building Systems
Location: North Haven
Business Activity: A new business, SBS is a partnership between Diverse Services Group of Arizona and the Weeks Group, an Australian building and manufacturing company. In North Haven, SBS will manufacture sustainable building panels for hotels, homes, the military and other users.
First Five Deal: SBS is expected to create a total of 408 jobs in Connecticut within four years, with initial positions targeted to 50 local employees who will be trained in the various areas of manufacturing. The company is expected to spend some $97 million to establish itself in Connecticut. In exchange, the company will receive a two percent-interest, $19.1 million loan over ten years and three installments, provided job-creation expectations are met. Funds are intended to be used for machinery and equipment purchased.
Location: Stamford, Hartford and Wilton
Business Activity: Provides professional services including tax, consulting, financial advisory and audit to various industries.
First Five Deal: The company will establish a minimum of 200 and up to 500 new jobs by expanding its Stamford, Hartford and Wilton operations, a project estimated at $16 million. Deloitte also pledges to maintain its current 1,153 state jobs. Connecticut will provide the business with financial aid that includes: $9 million, providing all current jobs are kept and 200 more established by the end of 2013; an additional $2.5 million if 1,353 jobs are retained and 150 more positions are created by the end of 2018; and another $5.5 million by that same time period, the end of 2018, for creating 150 more jobs.
Company: Bridgewater Associates
Business Activity: Bridgewater manages $130 billion in worldwide investments for clients that include foreign governments, central banks, public and corporate pension funds, charitable foundations and university endowments.
First Five Deal: The company would relocate its Westport-based operations to Stamford, a move that entails an estimated $750 million capital investment. Bridgewater also would create up to 1,000 jobs.
The state would provide up to $115 million in financial assistance, including a $25 million forgivable loan, at a one percent rate, to help construct a new facility; up to $5 million in grant funds for job training; another grant of up to $5 million, applied to installing alternative energy systems; and tax credits of up to $80 million.
HARTFORD — Comptroller Kevin Lembo reported September 4 that the state ended fiscal 2012 with a $143.6 million deficit, which was driven in part by a 7.6-percent increase in Medicaid spending.
The deficit has been eliminated using budget reserves from prior years, Lembo said.
In a letter to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Lembo reported that General Fund revenue for fiscal 2012 grew 4.8 percent or $854.2 million. That growth fell $227 million short of the original budget target.
Meanwhile, Lembo said spending in fiscal 2012 was up $936.9 million or 5.2 percent over the prior year.
The largest component of the increase was from the Department of Social Services (DSS), whose Medicaid caseload grew by 52 percent. That led to a 7.6 percent, or $409.4 million, increase in spending on the health insurance program for the poor.
Additional spending increases resulted from contributions to teachers' retirement, up $210.2 million; debt service payments; and funding for the state employees' retirement.
A new national report puts Connecticut near the bottom among all states for its business climate in 2012, with the cost of state government, taxes and regulations cited among the causes.
The report by CNBC ranks Connecticut 44th in 2012, down from 39th in 2011.
The Constitution State’s competitiveness is dragged down by the cost of doing business here (ranked 46th in the nation, down from 45 a year earlier), cost of living (only two states higher in 2012), and the state’s substandard infrastructure and transportation (43rd in the nation).
In addition, only ten states performed worse than Connecticut in CNBC’s rankings of the state’s workforce and overall economy (both ranked No. 40).
Connecticut highest national ranking, according to CNBC, was for quality of education (average SAT scores 1535 out of possible 2400), which trailed only New York State. However, even that metric fails to reflect the yawning achievement gap between poor urban and wealthier suburban public-school districts.
The states even worse than Connecticut for doing business, according to CNBC: Mississippi (No. 46), Alaska (47), West Virginia (48), Hawaii (49) and Rhode Island. The top-ranked state for the third consecutive years is Texas.