A plan to grow defense and manufacturing jobs

March 6, 2019

Op-ed by State Senator Kevin Kelly

Connecticut’s defense industry is a vibrant job creator and economic engine.

From Sikorsky to Electric Boat to so many other companies and small businesses, our state has demonstrated time and again that we have the skilled workforce and the industry leaders that can produce the best goods and services to keep our nation safe.

Connecticut can and should do more to harness this success to spread growth throughout our state. Specifically, we must encourage the defense industry to work with in-state suppliers whenever possible.

That’s why this year I am again proposing a bill that would establish a “Buy Connecticut” program to incentivize defense contractors to work with the incredible talent here in our state.

“Buy Connecticut” would provide sales tax exemptions and research and development tax credits to defense contractors that work with in-state supply line manufacturers, instead of buying parts and products from out-of-state companies. By steering defense contractors toward in-state suppliers, we can help foster relationships that will grow jobs, strengthen our communities and bring more opportunities to our state.

According to an annual report from the state’s Office of Military Affairs, Connecticut companies received $23 billion in defense contracts in 2017, the second-highest level in 10 years. The federal government has recognized the good work done in Connecticut. Funding has been increased and been directed toward our state. We have the funds coming in, so let’s do what we can to keep those dollars here instead of watching them go to businesses in other states.

Having grown up in Stratford, I have long seen the positive impact that Sikorsky, one of the nation’s top defense contractors, has had on our local towns. It has created thousands of jobs, become involved in our community, and driven business to many smaller manufacturers, suppliers and local mom-and-pop shops nearby. I believe Connecticut has an opportunity to capitalize on this type of growth, especially with recent increases in federal funding.

By utilizing sales tax exemptions and existing research and development tax credits, we can bring big corporations and small mom-and-pop shops together. We can unite nationwide defense contractors and local supply-chain manufacturers. We can encourage businesses to invest those federal dollars in our local economy to grow Connecticut jobs. We can foster relationships that build communities and create opportunities for people throughout our state.

Every time I hear a Sikorsky helicopter takeoff I think to myself, “That’s the sound of freedom.” Let’s do what we can to make sure that sound is the result of Connecticut workers — from our small manufacturers to our largest corporations. Buy Connecticut so we can build Connecticut.

State Sen. Kevin C. Kelly represents the 21st Senate District, which includes the towns of Monroe, Seymour, Shelton and Stratford.