Bridgeport area business leaders sound off on need to keep vo-tech schools, programs [New Haven Register]

August 11, 2011

Article as it appeared in the New Haven Register on August 11, 2011
By Mary E. O’Leary, Register Topics Editor

BRIDGEPORT — As he kicked off a jobs tour Wednesday, state Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, heard a vigorous defense of the vocational technical high schools and the need to keep those programs in place.

McKinney listened to a number of business leaders gathered at Lacey Manufacturing on what they want the state to do to help their companies grow.

Lacey Manufacturing provides devices for the medical, commercial and bearing markets.

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has been conducting his own jobs tour all summer in anticipation of a September special session of the General Assembly that will be devoted to job creation in the state.

McKinney plans to meet with more than 50 employers from around the state in five stops through the end of the month.

“One-party rule in Connecticut, where Democrats control the governor’s office and both chambers of the legislature for the first time in 20 years, has resulted in a number of major policy changes affecting Connecticut businesses and their ability to create jobs,” McKinney said in a statement.

“We have an obligation to understand what you need,” McKinney told several members of the Bridgeport Regional Business Council.

He said he wants to concentrate on retaining and growing small businesses as the real job incubators.

Malloy had proposed incorporating the vo-tech students into mainstream public schools, which Katherine A. Saint said would be the “death knell” for the system. She said the path now from high school to work and then further 2-year or 4-year college training is “seamless.”

Saint, president of business development at Schwerdtle, also encouraged the state to enhance robotics offerings at all the vo-tech schools, where students in different disciplines can work together “like the real world.

“From the moment they walk in the door they are ready and able and they have the knowledge of how to work,” said Kris Lorch of Alloy Engineering, referring to the vo-tech students she hires.

McKinney was encouraged to establish a program that would provide research and tax credits for startup businesses that need those students more than established firms, similar to what Massachusetts and Rhode Island do.

On lowering health care costs, McKinney said he favors incentives to keep a company’s work force healthy as a proven method to drive down costs.

Saint favored the proposed federal Manufacturing Reinvestment Act and would like to see a similar instrument at the state level.

Under that plan, companies could investment in local banks and tap their funds at a later date for company projects at a reduced tax rate.

“That’s a good piece of legislation to work on for the special session,” McKinney said.