The state’s big-city mayors and policy wonks got together last week to discuss their economic and workforce challenges, as part of the New England Knowledge Corridor Partnership. In a related backdrop, a new United Way ALICE report on the struggles of CT households gives us important context for understanding education.
Certainly the deep understanding of the financial hardships that CT families face, as the United Way’s second ALICE report highlighted, and the analysis of the 1.7 million “knowledge corridor” populace from Springfield, MA through Hartford to New Britain, illuminate both the problems and possibilities for progress.
Here are brief summaries of – and links to – these significant data sources:
- The New England Knowledge Corridor Partnership presented its action agenda last week at its Mayors’ Fall Economic Forum, sharing views on the pace of recovery from the 2008 recession and more than 20 action steps to make the Springfield-to-New Britain knowledge corridor more connected, competitive, vibrant, and green. Don Klepper-Smith, Farmington Bank economic adviser, noted that Greater Springfield has added 25,000 jobs after losing 15,000 in the recession – a 168 percent recovery rate. That comparable statistic for CT is 81 percent; recent poll data show 40 percent of the state’s population is planning to move out of the state, he said.
The 23 action steps include assuring access to high-speed Internet for all businesses, schools, residences, and local governments; matching talent development to jobs; making strategic investments to strengthen neighborhoods; and improving health, including reducing hunger. The full action plan, including a list of the regional partners, is online here.
Takeaways from the forum include:
- The biggest asset in our region is what gives us the name, “Knowledge Corridor,” referring to the concentration of 30 colleges and universities totaling over 125,000 students;
- The region’s three major cities, Springfield, Hartford, and New Haven, are among only a few in the nation whose demographics mirror that of the country as a whole. In fact, New Haven is #1, Hartford is #3, and Springfield is #5; Connecticut comes in #4 among states. Here’s a good source for those data.
- STEM fields continue to be where the job opportunities are opening up;
- The key to economic development is cross-sector collaboration; and
- The soon-to-launch Working Cities Challenge, first in MA and now in CT, is a fantastic opportunity to leverage the region’s assets to spur economic development.
- The United Way ALICE Report, in a 2016 update for CT, uses the latest data from 2014 to look at ALICE (an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed), households that earn more than the U.S. poverty level … but less than the basic cost of living for their state.
One indicator highlighted in the report is the seven-year increase of 14 percent in the cost of basic household expenses. “The average annual Household Survival Budget for a CT family of four (two adults with one infant and one preschooler) ranges from $66,168 to $73,716 – more than triple the U.S. family poverty rate of $23,850.”
The combined proportion of Hartford County households meeting the ALICE criterion – and living below the poverty line – is reported as 74 percent (compared with the combined statewide proportion of 38 percent).
The report is online here; the Hartford Business Journal’s October 11 coverage is here. The identification of Greater Hartford as a knowledge capital is discussed here.
The Bottom Line. The issue of the day is economic development, as the above event, presentation, action plan and report all highlight: There is a need for collaborative, coordinated efforts to build opportunity.
By making structural changes, such as increasing affordable housing and building STEM connections to available jobs, the CT-MASS knowledge corridor can position Greater Hartford with Charlotte and Denver as regional hubs, but enhanced educational opportunities will be crucial.