In the last column we thanked the Governor and many of the legislators who supported our technology agenda during the legislative session that ended last week. I also want to thank the many of our members who wrote their legislators, either in support of the current R&D tax credit rules or in support of our platform of more funding for innovation based activities at CI, UConn, CCAT and elsewhere around the state. I need to remind that you that hours of lobbying by your staff is worth less than one succinct letter from a real-life business constituent such as you. When you wrote, the legislators noted what you said and told me about it. We need to keep those letters coming.
In reading the many end-of-session reviews this weekend, the consensus was pretty much where we came out: non-partisan cooperation and significant progress on key issues, with surprisingly little blood letting considering it’s an election year.
This is not to say that all is totally well. We still have a propensity to try to accomplish things incrementally, in small steps. Perhaps in a campaign year no one wants to give a sitting governor too much credit for major changes, or, more likely, we are still a long way from committing to the major changes in the “innovation infrastructure” of Connecticut needed to both catch up to and capture the imagination of the global entrepreneurial community. We must hope that this will come with time. Thank goodness we shed our reticence to be bold about transportation, although even here, some are saying the billions committed are only a beginning.
These kinds of attitude changes take time, but connecting the dots between job growth, retaining those who comprise our 20 to 35 year-old population and adopting a more aggressive set of innovation policies now seems well under way.
A Global Perspective on Growth
Last Friday there was a terrific conference in Enfield bringing together the Hartford and Springfield business communities around the emerging bi-state “knowledge corridor.” The speaker was Michael Gallis, the Charlotte based global strategist (http://www.mgallis.com/MGA-Navibar.html) who updated the group on his thoughts about changes impacting Connecticut since his ground breaking 1999 study of our state systems and opportunities within the metro-New York and Boston regions. It was this report that coined the concept of New England becoming a possible freight cul de sac and led to the creation of the state’s Transportation Strategy Board and the knowledge corridor itself. He helped understand the value of the Port of New York and New Jersey’s trans-Hudson connections for Connecticut’s growth as well as the importance of our investments in Bradley Airport and Metro-North.
The fundamental message after 45 minutes of eye-opening maps, charts and beautiful graphics was that New England remains in serious peril of losing its remaining role in global trade due to new patterns of shipping, rail and manufacturing.
More important for us, he feels that the interconnection of transportation systems, regional land use policies and a strategic understanding of the exploding global demands for ideas, markets and resources will define how all major regions grow in the coming decades.
Those places that have a strategy and can integrate with the growing power of the Asian economies will be well positioned for success. He noted that the Europeans and especially the Chinese have definite goals and plans for every part of their economic development strategies. He feels that only a few parts of our country have anything close to these kinds of well thought out goals driven efforts. In part, this is due to our national reliance on local market based decision making – something that has certainly served us very well up to now. The trick is to keep this kind of dynamic mechanism while not ignoring the emerging global opportunities for capital.
Unfortunately, his excellent presentation is not available for review but I will try to secure a summary of his work for our membership. It is probably the most important primer for New England policy makers as a framework for the work the state is undertaking in education, innovation investment and transportation investments.
The bottom line for 2020: hope your children grow up to be Mandarin-speaking oil production geologists.
Student Web Business Competition
Geeks love to see geeks become cool, and one of the things we all enjoy most of all is seeing students not only get excited about using technology, but watching them master it. With tech toys such a part of teenage life, it is always a wonder that more don’t embrace the core engineering and design knowledge that goes into creating the iPod and instant messaging world that so many of our kids live in. Perhaps that’s like asking me why my friends didn’t become professional baseball players after all of the after school games we played. Still, I think the average high schooler today is closer to a career at Google™ than anyone I knew was to making the Amity High School Junior Varsity squad. You can see for yourself this Saturday at the Connecticut Convention Center when over 30 schools compete against each other to win prizes at the Connecticut Innovation Challenge Exposition starting at 9:00 AM.
The goal is to build a viable company around a fully functioning web site. Check out the results at http://itacademy.org/projects/. If your child’s or town’s high school is not part of this program you should contact Michael Mino (firstname.lastname@example.org) to see if you can get your school signed up for next year. Participants learn about teamwork, the web and creating an internet based business or service. I’ll be a judge again this year and will report back news of the event in coming weeks.
Matthew Nemerson President & CEO Connecticut Technology Council