NHMA - Survey: 44 Percent Of Connecticut Manufacturers Say They'll Hire Workers Next Year

Many NHMA manufacturers participated in the survey prepared by Congressman Murphy and Senator Blumenthal. The results were issued on Monday.


New Haven Register

By Mary E. O'Leary, Register Topics Editor

Email: moleary@nhregister.com

Twitter: @nhrmoleary

Hartford - Connecticut manufacturing is on the verge of a rebirth, with companies confident of their future, and the only problem being a lack of trained workers, according to two members of the state's congressional delegation.

That was the message from a survey prepared for U.S. Rep. Christopher Murphy, D-5, who plans to bring it back to Washington to argue against cuts in education and job training.

"Manufacturing is far from dead in this country. In fact, it is one of the leading edges of growth as our ... very fragile economy continues to creep towards recovery," Murphy said of the almost 300,000 jobs added since December 2010, reversing a decade of decline.

"We are on the brink of the re-industrialization of this nation, and Connecticut has to make sure that it is part of that rebirth," Murphy said at a press conference Monday at the Capitol with U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.

The 151 companies that responded to the survey employ about 10 percent of the manufacturing work force in the state, up to 17,000 employees. They are mostly in central Connecticut in the Connecticut River Valley and the Interstate 91 corridor, with most reporting annual revenues of $5 million to $10 million.

Some 44 percent said they plan to hire more workers next year, with 45 percent certain they will retain their work force; three-quarters were confident of the future of their firms, with 53 percent predicting that their company's gross revenue will increase next year.

But 87 percent said it was difficult or very difficult to fill vacancies and want a properly funded vocational school feeder program to ensure a steady supply of skilled laborers, as well as advanced training in the university system.

"I'm going to take this survey down to Washington as proof to my colleagues on both sides of the aisle that it would be incredibly foolhardy from an economic standpoint to cut money for job training programs, for the work force investment boards, for community colleges or for our higher education system," Murphy said.

This group of manufacturers may be confident, but the country has a long way to go to replace the 5 million manufacturing jobs lost and 42,000 factories that have closed since 2001, a period when Connecticut saw 5,000 manufacturing jobs disappear.

Almost 90 percent of those surveyed said their main competition came from overseas, with 73 percent from plants in China, while just 25 percent said bureaucratic requirements kept them from accessing federal contracts.

The other top concerns are the cost of health care and the tax burden, both from the state and federal governments.

Murphy and Blumenthal favored tougher "Buy American" requirements.

"I think this survey is really seminal. It is a game-changer," Blumenthal said. "It provides us with the objective evidence ... the lesson here is, and it ought to be our mantra, 'Make it in Connecticut, so it is made in America.'"

Blumenthal said the tax code needs to be simplified and taxes lowered for manufacturing "by eliminating some of the loopholes and tax breaks and giveaways ... subsidies for ethanol, oil and gas tax breaks, tax breaks for companies that send jobs overseas." They also want to see regulatory reform and lower health care costs.

With the state looking at big cuts in its vocational high schools if hoped-for union savings don't come through, Murphy said he would look to the federal government not to exacerbate the situation with more cuts there.

Sen. Andrew Roraback, R-Goshen, said the survey was fine as far as it went, but it is not complete until the state interviews manufacturers who have left Connecticut.

"We should routinely engage in exit surveys to learn and understand what motivates work force development issues and why we are not producing individuals who possess the skill sets in demand," Roraback said.

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