New urbanism for New London

Everyone would agree that Connecticut’s economy has not performed as we all would like. The middle-class is being squeezed day by day with taxes by a government that has for many, many years taken the top-down approach. It is time that we put into play concepts that start literally from the ground up. 

A really smart progressive state, which we all like to think Connecticut is, requires an approach that permits distinctive regions to participate in the economic revitalization of their own respective economic destinies. New London could be one of the most vibrant examples of an exciting and challenging shift from a post-industrial to a knowledge economy. 

The vast majority of us share a disdain for those who would deny the existence of climate change, but what is needed is hard evidence not only of the scope but the dynamics. If proactive public policies are not immediately articulated and enacted, we will all be in trouble. We need actual initiatives that can benefit the state, New England and the nation. 

New London and its environs can be part of the big picture and combine intellectual, cultural and economic positions to aid in creating a new economy. The Coast Guard Academy in New London is a national resource, and Groton hosts the Avery Point branch of the University of Connecticut and its Connecticut Sea Grant program. New London has Connecticut College and Mitchell College and the Coast Guard's research and development center. 

Together with Electric Boat's presence in Groton and New London, these combine to position this historic region as a New England and possibly global climate change research and resource center and think tank. Recruit the best minds to study and implement solutions and become a regional partner of the National Weather Service and Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Interior and others. 

The old urban renewal model doesn’t work. It is dated, on life support and of no interest to next-generation entrepreneurs, thought leaders and change agents. Government investment can serve as the catalyst to ignite a response in the New London region, just as New Haven can be positioned as a global biotech research and development center, using Yale University, University of New Haven, Quinnipiac University, Albertus Magnus and other colleges in the area. Hartford, as another example, is ideally situated to transition from dated insurance underwriting to contemporary Affordable Care Act management. 

The Connecticut Port Authority has a plan to expand the use of the state’s deepwater ports and create jobs by increasing the volume of goods transported through our ports, taking advantage of the unique Northeast location. As Scott Bates, deputy secretary of the state and chair of the port authority, recently noted, the maritime sector already generates more than $1 billion in annual economic activity, supporting roughly 35,000 jobs. Boosting containerized shipping would even help get some truck traffic off our roads.

New London is in a great position to move forward both with a new urban approach and a new tourism outreach, which would attract additional business to the city and help the state return to a positive economy. 

Connecticut has been literally run over by Massachusetts and New York. We need to help regional education leaders and industry to come together with our universities and colleges to work together in creating a new economy. New London is well positioned to be the leader. 

Atty. Edward L. Marcus is former chairman of the Democratic State Central Committee in Connecticut and former state Senate majority leader. His office is in Branford. 

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