Gov. Ned Lamont talks business in Fairfield
FAIRFIELD — For the first time since being elected, Gov. Ned Lamont returned to Fairfield to talk business.
He joined town officials at Brooklawn Country Club in Fairfield Wednesday to discuss transportation, infrastructure and his two-year budget with business leaders and the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce.
His address comes after a weekend punctuated with an announcement that United Technologies would no longer be headquartered in the state because of a proposed merger with Raytheon.
“I’m reminded a little bit of — this is where General Electric was and when they left, what that meant to the community,” Lamont said, referring to the global conglomerate’s 2015 departure for Boston.
Before the main event, Lamont stopped to chat a few minutes with three sign-wielding people opposed to road tolls who stood outside the venue as his car rolled up. Then he went in to meet with about 100 business, industry, education and charity leaders.
During the breakfast event, Lamont maintained his position that the pathway to economic stability and eventual growth would come from a balanced budget, improvements to transportation and workforce development.
“Connecticut has been lagging in job creation for a long time,” he said. “GDP is doing better but it’s a snail’s pace as far as job creation …That’s why you hired a business person to be your governor, to do everything we can to ramp that up a little bit.”
While Lamont didn’t break any new ground in his speech, several business leaders in the audience praised what they called his transparency and frankness, while some business owners still had their share of concerns about his policies.
Jay Kiley, owner of Synergy HomeCare, which provides in-home senior care, said he hoped Lamont would have discussed more of his two-year budget, specifically a part of the state budget bill which prohibits home care agencies from enforcing a ban on employees referring the clients they are assigned to serve to other facilities.
Kiley called the section, which he said lawmakers snuck in at the last minute, “anti-small businesses and could put our seniors at risk.”
Bridgeport Neighborhood Trust’s new CEO Noah Gotbaum said he had plenty of questions, particularly surrounding housing development in the state.
“We want to attract the workforce here…but if you don’t have workforce and affordable housing in the cities, you are not going to attract that workforce,” he said.
Nonprofits and housing development organizations took a hit with Lamont’s two-year budget, which called for cutbacks on state borrowing and funding. That has placed added strain on organizations like BNT, which have traditionally relied on state funding to build housing in the Park City, Gotbaum said.
As Lamont touted his desire to bolster retention of young professionals with improved transportation and building up cities, Gotbaum argued that providing housing security should be just as important.
“His comments about retaining and building are right on, but you have to add housing to the mix,” he said. “We can’t lose focus on that. “
Lamont said state officials will work to resolve that in coming months.
“Every dime of bonding money I do I want focused like a laser beam on economic growth and creation,” he said, adding that affordable housing would be a part of the mix.