Frustrations aired at Waterbury chamber’s jobs roundtable [Waterbury Rep-Am]

October 6, 2011

The mood of Wednesday morning’s jobs roundtable discussion at the Waterbury Regional Chamber can be summed up in one word: frustration. About two dozen business executives and education administrators attended the event featuring a panel of six Republican legislators, and while they listened respectfully it was obvious they don’t expect much help from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s special session on jobs set for Oct. 26.

“What prevents jobs from being developed is the uncertainty,” said William Haris, president of American Copy Service Center Inc. in Waterbury. “If you could give us five years, 10 years where things just stay the same, that would help.”

The GOP legislators who attended — including House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr. — are equally frustrated in their efforts to effect meaningful change in Hartford, even as they remain hopeful.

“I told the governor that we wanted to sit at the table and put aside our differences and not rehash the regular session,” Cafero said of the jobs session. “We had one condition: to sit at the table and freely exchange our ideas.”

If that happens it would be very different from the regular session earlier this year, which was “a very one-sided process,” he said.

To prepare for the jobs session, Cafero said, the four caucuses — the House and Senate Republicans and House and Senate Democrats — have each created agendas that are being negotiated now.

Plenty of ideas were offered Wednesday by the panel, which also included Sen. Robert J. Kane, R- Watertown; Rep. Selim G. Noujaim, R-74th District; Rep. Rosa C. Rebimbas, R-Naugatuck; Rep. Robert C. Sampson, R-Wolcott, and Rep. Sean J. Williams, R-Watertown.

Cafero said three of the agendas list a $50 million “First 500” program. That would offer $100,000 in tax credits over four years to 500 businesses with 49 or fewer employees that each create two new jobs.

“If each of those 500 businesses create just two new jobs, that’s 1,000 jobs,” Cafero said.

Focusing on small business is a point of emphasis for the GOP, he said, especially after Malloy’s First Five economic development program set aside $250 million to entice major corporations to create jobs.

Jack Traver, president of Traver IDC in Waterbury, suggested using $250 million strictly in the manufacturing sector, since studies show that every manufacturing job supports three to four other jobs. He believes 200,000 jobs could be added by offering manufacturers a $12,500 tax credit for every new job created.

Kane expressed his frustration that Malloy vetoed a bipartisan proposal to create an economic development district around the Waterbury-Oxford Airport. He said he didn’t understand the governor’s reasoning.

“His first response was, we should wait. In my mind, we can’t wait. We need jobs yesterday,” Kane said, adding he hopes to revive the bill in the jobs session.

Noujaim, whose family owns Noujaim Tool Co. in Waterbury, said his company benefited from an enterprise zone and believes more such zones are needed. Letting companies start with a reduced tax burden helps them succeed, and eventually adds a commercial taxpayer to municipal rolls, he said.

Two educators in attendance — Naugatuck Valley Community College President Daisy Cocco De Filippis and Kaynor Technical High School Assistant Principal Russell Duffy — voiced their frustrations, saying any talk of creating jobs must include more aid for education. De Filippis said the state’s portion of funding for community colleges has fallen from 70 percent to 42 percent over the last 10 years.

Duffy noted that while legislators may approve funding for capital improvements at schools, the State Bond Commission often delays action.

“You vote for funding, but the funding never comes,” he said.