Attention, New York: Connecticut is open for business
Updated: Jul 20, 2020
Right now, there’s a migration out of New York, and Connecticut needs to welcome them. People with their health and wallets in mind are looking to escape urban congestion and high costs of living. Companies that have transitioned to a Zoom-only workforce are bailing on expensive high-rise leases. More than 16,000 New Yorkers have already moved to Connecticut since March, along with 10 companies, accounting for a combined 75,000 square feet of commercial space. As The New York Times recently reported, young professionals who have moved from the city may never return. They’re putting their roots down somewhere else.
So, what is Connecticut doing to convince more people and companies to choose our state over New Jersey, Westchester County or even Florida to work remotely and raise their families? Not as much as we should be doing.
Yes, our state has immediate concerns — maintaining our low Covid-19 transmission rate, containing a second wave, sending our children safely back to school — but we shouldn’t delay incentives to attract new residents to our beautiful and vibrant state as families make immediate decisions to leave the city for the suburbs.
We have a major opportunity to attract those young families — the millennials who are the largest generation in the workforce and entering their 40s (yes, we millennials are hitting 40) — who have little interest in raising families in a cramped 4-story walk-up apartment in Brooklyn when their money could buy a lot more space, great public schools and a peaceful quality of life here in Connecticut. We have a unique opportunity to find a silver lining amid this Covid-induced tragedy by ushering forward a suburban renaissance.
Attracting families with our high-quality schools and beautiful communities is only one solution to the problem. We need to convince businesses, which are starting to make critical decisions now, to settle back into Fairfield County after the pandemic. Lawmakers must explore initiatives like a modest tax incentive to get businesses in the door, then a longevity tax break or tax incentive as they reach certain thresholds for number of employees and years in Connecticut. We can also offer similar incentives to existing businesses for growing their business in the state.
For our workforce, we can offer student loan forgiveness to Connecticut’s graduates who start businesses here and stay at least five years, or who go to work in one of our growth sectors such as biotech or green energy. The more businesses we attract and start, the more attractive we become for future transplants, and the less the tax burden will be on residents alone.
My husband and I made the pre-pandemic decision to move to Connecticut for the same reasons that hold true today. Like many city dwellers, when we wanted to start a family, we knew we wanted to leave the city and would come to Connecticut to be closer to the small business my husband owns in Darien. We were both raised in rural areas and then lived in big cities — both lifestyles we loved — and we decided on Fairfield for its great schools, welcoming community, diverse housing options, and proximity to Metro North.
To our taste, it had the best of both worlds, with beautiful open spaces and the conveniences we enjoyed having nearby. Now the pandemic has motivated the broader public to also make this calculation. As this public health crisis continues to disrupt many people’s lives, health, and economic futures, many are facing that same question of where to live, raise a family, and improve their quality of life.
Connecticut has a unique opportunity to take decisive action now to rebuild our economy and attract businesses and people fleeing New York looking for a better and more affordable quality of life, so that when people are considering their options, Connecticut is the best choice.
Jennifer M. Leeper is a former education specialist at the state Department of Education, a member of the Fairfield board of education and a candidate for state representative.