Fairfield, and Massachusetts, could be models for the rest of the state
FAIRFIELD — There’s something about Massachusetts.
That’s what John Traynor told the audience at Wednesday's Chamber of Commerce Economic Outlook breakfast. The two states are pretty similar in their economy and climate, the chief investment officer and executive vice president for People’s United Bank said.
“When they come up with great ideas, they keep it in Massachusetts,” Traynor said, and it’s not just Boston. “They’re holding onto these great ideas that bubble up in the universities.”
Connecticut, he said, has to do the same thing, and said he believes Fairfield can serve as a model for the rest of the state.
“We’ve got two great universities in this town,’ Traynor said, and next door in Bridgeport is a “fantastic” advanced manufacturing program at Housatonic Community College. Fairfield needs to harness that growth, he said, instead of the state exporting a lot of the higher paying jobs.
Traynor was also critical of the fact that Connecticut is one of 13 states that are “donor” states to the federal government — paying more in taxes than they get back — and stands to lose the most from the elimination of the state and local tax deduction. According to Traynor, for every $1 dollar in federal taxes, Connecticut gets back .69 cents, while states like Mississippi get $2.02 back for every $1 in federal tax paid.
“As a state, Connecticut has done more than its fair share of supporting the country,” he said.
Traynor said the country as a whole is in the second-longest economic recovery since the 1930’s, though he said it has been a “half-speed recovery.” For those looking for investment advice, he said they should keep in mind the words of Will Rogers: “I’m more concerned with the return of my capital than the return on my capital.”
While in 2009, investors wanted to be aggressive, now, Traynor said, “you want to be a little more cautious, a little more prudent.”
He said the Leading Economic Indicator Index shows that there are at least four years to go until the next recession.
Locally, First Selectman Mike Tetreau said the town is in a strong financial position that has allowed it to “weather the storm” of the state’s financial problems. But, he said, that is in part because the town has instituted a hiring freeze and put a hold on capital spending to make up for reductions in state aid.
“There’s no way you’re not going to see some differences in service levels,” Tetreau said.
Fairfield, he said, needs to grow its grand list, because cutting expenses alone won’t achieve lower tax bills while maintaining Fairfield’s value.
“This is the only town in Connecticut where you can walk to the beach, walk downtown, and walk to the train station,” Tetreau said. Transit-oriented developments can help to put the town is a better position to attract millennials.
He said there also has to be some consideration of converting targeted spots that are currently zoned as residential to commercial zones. “It’s not about approving every project everywhere, it’s not about expanding the commercial zone everywhere,’ Tetreau said. “It’s targeted.”