WorkinCT #CTConfident: Indiana agency targets Connecticut businesses with billboards

WATERBURY -- The billboards along I-84 in Waterbury advertise a number of Connecticut businesses, but there’s one that is advertising another state. The Indiana Economic Development Corporation is asking Connecticut companies to take their businesses to the next level by moving to Indiana. It’s part of a year-long campaign that focuses on high-cost, high-tax markets like New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

“It’s actually astounding to me that states feel the need to compete so strongly against each other, when we should be focused as a nation on how we can grow our economy and make ourselves even stronger,” said Catherine Smith, Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development.

Smith says putting up a billboard is an unimpressive way to recruit businesses.

“We don’t believe that putting up a billboard is by any means a very effective way to recruit, because it basically says any mom and pop company come to our state, whereas we feel that companies that will be the most successful here are the ones that will be attracted by the talent, the location, and the quality of life that we have,” she said.

That’s why she says Connecticut focuses its efforts on bringing in national and international companies that align with the established businesses here.

“We’ve done a pretty thorough analysis of what part of our economy does the very best here, and we have focused in on places like bioscience, the finance and insurance industries and advanced manufacturing, particularly aerospace and ship building,” said Smith.

Joe Brennan, President and CEO of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, agrees that Connecticut has a wide array of tremendous businesses, and he says it’s not unusual for other states to constantly try to steal them away, especially with the fiscal problems in the state.

“It seems like we just have deficit after tax increase, deficit after tax increase, and long-term unfunded liabilities in many, many billions of dollars that are going to be owed over time. These are the things that business people look at when you’re making long term investments, so those are the things that have been holding us back so we haven’t been growing at the same rate as other states,” said Brennan.

However, he says, most businesses understand that while the grass may appear greener in another state, often times it isn’t.

“We’re going to get through the tough times we’re experiencing now, but we want businesses to understand that yeah, we’ve got challenges, but every state does. Despite all the rankings, and everything else, every state is having workforce challenges right now,” said Brennan.

Commissioner Smith also questions using taxpayer money for the billboards. An IEDC spokeswoman said it is a public-private partnership and the money used for these types of marketing campaigns is allocated by the Indiana General Assembly.