Study: Lo­cal growth lags na­tional num­bers

Com­mu­ni­ties that score well fall be­hind out-of-state com­peti­tors

Greenwich Time (Sunday) - - SUNDAY BUSINESS - By Alexan­der Soule

When Italia Yachts chose south­west­ern Con­necti­cut for its first U.S. sales of­fice, it had any num­ber of Gold Coast en­claves in which to weigh an­chor.

Its port of call? Mil­ford — a choice that more busi­nesses are mak­ing as lo­cal economies con­tinue to build mo­men­tum off an on­go­ing surge in the mar­kets.

New Haven led Con­necti­cut’s largest cities in eco­nomic per­for­mance in 2017, ac­cord­ing to a new study by the state Depart­ment of La­bor, with

Mil­ford edg­ing

Dan­bury for the top score among smaller cities in south­west­ern

Con­necti­cut.

Ox­ford topped all towns in the re­gion, with

North Ston­ing­ton hav­ing the best-per­form­ing econ­omy in the state re­gard­less of pop­u­la­tion.

The state Depart­ment of La­bor as­sesses eco­nomic per­for­mance ac­cord­ing to house­hold em­ploy­ment and wage trends, and any changes to the num­bers of busi­ness es­tab­lish­ments in any given lo­cale on a net ba­sis.

The in­dex omits sev­eral other im­por­tant eco­nomic cri­te­ria, in­clud­ing the rel­a­tive per­for­mances of res­i­den­tial real es­tate mar­kets that can be a tell­tale for the de­sir­abil­ity of a town for new­com­ers con­sid­er­ing their op­tions on where to live; and of­fice oc­cu­pan­cies that pro­vide a win­dow into the hir­ing of com­pa­nies lo­cated within a town. As an ex­am­ple, Green­wich is ranked 155th on the statewide list, de­spite an ever-shrink­ing va­cancy rate in its down­town area as the run-up on Wall Street trick­les down to the pro­fes­sional firms in its down­town busi­ness sec­tor.

“State un­der­fund­ing of lo­cal pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion over time has shifted a huge un­fair tax bur­den onto the backs of res­i­den­tial and busi­ness prop­erty tax­pay­ers.”

Joel DeLong, CCM ex­ec­u­tive state­ment

Ris­ing scores

On the DOL in­dex, Hart­ford had the best im­prove­ment of any city in Con­necti­cut

with at least 100,000 in­hab­i­tants, edg­ing New Haven’s year-over-year com­par­i­son. Among smaller mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties with pop­u­la­tions be­tween 25,000 and 100,000 peo­ple, Mans­field made the big­gest jump just ahead of Or­ange, with Franklin reg­is­ter­ing the big­gest gain among smaller towns statewide and Darien rank­ing 12th to edge one rung ahead of Sher­man to lead the south­west­ern cor­ner of the state, with the two towns also lead­ing the re­gion for eco­nomic gains since 2014.

Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties statewide saw a siz­able up­swing on this year’s DOL in­dex, with only nine Con­necti­cut towns suf­fer­ing a drop in their eco­nomic score in­clud­ing New­town and Fair­field.

What rep­re­sents strong eco­nomic per­for­mance in Con­necti­cut pales to other parts of the coun­try. The New Haven-Mil­ford re­gion ranked in the bot­tom 40 per­cent of met­ro­pol­i­tan ar­eas na­tion­ally for yearover-year em­ploy­ment growth in Au­gust, with a 1.1 per­cent gain, ver­sus 1.4 per­cent in the Dan­bury eco­nomic zone and 6.9 per­cent in At­lantic City, N.J., which led the North­east and ranked third na­tion­ally.

With a mea­ger 0.7 per­cent em­ploy­ment growth over the in­ter­ven­ing year, the Green­wich-Bridge­port cor­ri­dor only barely cracked the top 300 re­gions for hir­ing mo­men­tum, rel­e­gat­ing the area to the bot­tom 25 per­cent of met­ro­pol­i­tan clus­ters na­tion­ally.

Eas­ing the bur­den

For the fall elec­tions, the Con­necti­cut Con­fer­ence of Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties is press­ing can­di­dates to con­sider ways to al­le­vi­ate the fi­nan­cial bur­den the state’s cities and towns are car­ry­ing, par­tic­u­larly with re­gard to new laws that force them to in­crease spend­ing — with a wa­ter­fall ef­fect on lo­cal prop­erty taxes that rep­re­sent the ma­jor source of rev­enue for cities and towns.

CCM wants not just a ban on new edicts from Hart­ford, but a roll­back of prior man­dates such as ex­emp­tions on taxes for cer­tain classes of prop­er­ties, or re­quire­ments for towns to pick up much of the cost of ed­u­ca­tional ser­vices for chil­dren with ex­tra needs in the school en­vi­ron­ment.

“State un­der­fund­ing of lo­cal pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion over time has shifted a huge un­fair tax bur­den onto the backs of res­i­den­tial and busi­ness prop­erty tax­pay­ers,” said Joel DeLong, ex­ec­u­tive state­ment of CCM, in a writ­ten state­ment this week in sup­port of the non­profit’s govern­ment pri­or­i­ties. “To con­tinue to trans­fer state bud­get prob­lems to towns and cities and their prop­erty tax­pay­ers is un­fair, and it short­changes Con­necti­cut’s fu­ture.”

Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia file photo

Rush Ac­ces­sories owner Den­nis Mathews helps Joan Ar­coleo, of Rye, N.Y., try on a neck­lace dur­ing Side­walk Sale Days in Green­wich in July.

Lind­say Perry / for Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

The Last Taste of Sum­mer Craft Beer Fes­ti­val at Roger Sher­man Bald­win Park in Green­wich last month.

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