Output in state ranks in Top 10

By Angela Carter, Register Staff

NEW HAVEN - When it comes to the manufacturing sector, Connecticut ranks within the Top 10 nationally in high technology (seventh), patents per capita (eighth) and value added per production worker (seventh), according to data presented Thursday to the New Haven Manufacturers Association.

Donald Klepper-Smith, chief economist and director of research for DataCore Partners, said during an association lunch at The Graduate Club that despite shedding 300,000 jobs since the late 1960s, technological advances have helped state-based manufacturers become increasingly lean and highly productive.

The sector continues to account for about 10 percent of total state employment, compared to about 9 percent nationally, he said.

"Despite the loss of jobs in Connecticut, the data as of December 2009 conclusively demonstrates that manufacturing is one of the state's primary economic drivers, both in terms of employment and value added," Klepper-Smith said.

William Villano, executive director of Workforce Alliance, said losses of research and development jobs and the shift of assembly and other tasks to workers in other nations could threaten the ability of innovation to help the state recover and create jobs.

"The question is: How do we move from short-term profitability to long-term sustainability?" Villano said. "The next new thing that pulls us out of this is not necessarily there."

Klepper-Smith recommended that the state focus on adopting a budget that works and conducting research to quantify the benefits of research and development of jobs and tax credits related to their creation.

He also advocates research that weighs the pros and cons of adopting a "right to work" mandate, meaning membership or payment of union dues as a condition of employment would be prohibited.

"I'm not advocating for or against; I'm saying, let's do the research," Klepper-Smith said.

Paul Hoffman, president of Orange Research Inc. in Milford, which manufactures gauges, said that even though the popular thought among economists is that the national recession ended in the third quarter last year, uncertainty lingers among businesses.

"It doesn't give me a lot of confidence to start making capital expenditures," he said.

Klepper-Smith agreed: "The recession is over, but it sure doesn't feel like it."