Factories seek help from state legislators

By Angela Carter, Register Staff

CROMWELL - Manufacturers from around the state gathered Wednesday to tell a handful of legislators before the 2009 General Assembly session convenes Jan. 7 that their operations are alive, but struggling in Connecticut, and to ask that no legislation be introduced that would increase already burdensome expenses.

"Connecticut has the fifth-highest average cost of doing business in the nation," said Jamison Scott, president of the New Haven Manufacturers Association and marketing manager for Air Handling Systems in Woodbridge. "We're asking the legislature: Don't make it worse."

Nearly 100 members of the Connecticut Manufacturing Coalition, a group of manufacturing organizations that provides educational and networking opportunities and coordinates a unified message on legislative priorities, gathered at the Crowne Plaza to outline legislative priorities.

The event was held by ConnSTEP, a Rocky Hill organization that provides consulting and training to companies in the state's manufacturing industry.Their focus included property taxes, health care and energy costs, support for vocational high schools, work force development, state investment in training incumbent workers for advancement, and saving programs that are partially funded by the state and have helped to boost productivity and energy efficiency.

Lawmakers in attendance were state Sen. Gary LeBeau, D-East Hartford, and state Reps. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, David McCluskey, D-West Hartford, Matthew Lesser, D-Middlefield, and Selim Noujaim, R-Waterbury, who also is executive vice president of Noujaim Tool Co. Inc. in the Brass City.

Legislators urged the manufacturers to call their local senators and representatives, explain their challenges and invite the lawmakers to their shops.

"This is a really difficult year. Every year is difficult, but this year is like turning up the volume on the TV. It's really loud," LeBeau said of economic conditions and the state's potential $6 billion budget shortfall.

"You have a responsibility to call your senators and representatives and they have a responsibility to respond," said former congressman Rob Simmons, who serves as the state's business advocate. "Otherwise, we are cruising for a bruising that can't be solved with finger-pointing."

Citing data from the Connecticut Economic Resource Center, Frank Johnson, president of the Manufacturing Alliance of Connecticut, said that 90 percent of all "high-tech" industries identified by the federal government are in the manufacturing sector.

Angela Carter can be reached at 789-5752 or acarter@nhregister.com.