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Hartford - Gov. Dannel P. Malloy offered a mix of talk and action Thursday during his Economic Summit on ideas for fixing what he called "Connecticut's biggest and most systemic problem" - not enough jobs.
"We are going to do everything in our power to see Connecticut grow jobs for the first time in 22, 23 years," he said.
On the action front, Malloy announced the launch of Startup Connecticut, an initiative to encourage entrepreneurship and help young businesses grow. The program will set up several bricks-and-mortar regional centers throughout the state to offer mentorship, financing and support services to businesses and ambitious individuals.
Connecticut is just the third state after Illinois and Tennessee to start a regional program of The Startup America Partnership, a nonprofit organization started in January by the Obama administration. The national organization says it receives financial support from foundations and private-sector corporations, although not the federal government.
An estimated 650 people attended the governor's half-day summit at the Connecticut Conference Center in downtown Hartford. The audience included many leaders of businesses and chambers of commerce.
One goal for the summit, Malloy said, was to help shape the economic development and jobs package that will be presented at the General Assembly's Oct. 26 special session.
The Malloy administration has been working for weeks with state legislators to produce a bipartisan bill of new job-growth policies and initiatives. Possibilities include added tax incentives for "angel investors" and a faster state permitting process.
"There's not a Republican way of building jobs and a Democratic way of building jobs," the Democratic governor told conference-goers.
Yet Republicans and the Connecticut Business & Industry Association have characterized some of Malloy's policies this year as absolute job killers, particularly the $2.6 billion in nearly across-the-board tax increases within his two-year state budget that took effect July 1.
The governor opened Thursday's summit by sharing a few suggestions and concerns that he said he heard during his recent three-month and 70-stops jobs tour.
• Connecticut could use a better-educated work force.
• The state needs greater coordination at all levels of education, from elementary to graduate school.
• Connecticut needs to train a younger generation of workers for precision manufacturing jobs to eventually replace an aging work force.
• Startup businesses require greater access to capital.
• Government needs to speed up permitting and cut back on regulations.
Malloy said he hopes that many of these issues will be addressed during the special session this month. "This is a tremendous opportunity for the world to know that Connecticut gets what it did wrong over the last 20 years," he said.
The summit featured presentations by experts on the state of the global, national and statewide economies. University of Connecticut's new president, Susan Herbst, joined a panel discussion on how universities and education systems can play a role in economic development.
Steve Cochrane, a Moody's Analytics economist, spoke via videoconference and told the audience that Connecticut could try to replicate some of the success of North Carolina, which is reaping the benefits of state-directed investments made two decades ago in reshaping its education system to be more attuned to businesses' needs.
Other special guests included Timothy "Scott" Case, the founding technology officer for Norwalk-based Priceline.com who is now Startup America's chief executive officer. Case arrived to the suit-and-tie function in what could be described as Silicon Valley formal: jeans, half-red-half-blue sneakers and a dark blazer over an untucked dress shirt.
He described how Connecticut has little choice but to cater to its entrepreneurs if it wishes to retain them.
"Entrepreneurs are scrappy, and if they don't find the resources they need in a given place, they'll go somewhere else," said Case, who was brought up in Greenwich and is a 1992 UConn graduate.
Funding for Startup Connecticut should be part of the legislature's forthcoming jobs package, Malloy said.
State Reps. Tom Reynolds, D-Ledyard, and Diana Urban, D-North Stonington, both praised the strategic, long-term approach to economic development under discussion throughout the summit.
"Finally we have a governor who gets it," Reynolds said.
"What I heard today was a new attitude, and that is huge," Urban said. "The proof of the pudding will be in this Oct. 26 session."