Strategies for economic growth in 2012
Over the past several years, our region and our nation have faced great economic challenges. We are fortunate in New England to have weathered this period with less collateral damage than other parts of the country.Our overall regional unemployment rate continues to be below the national average, and there are many encouraging signs of growth. Our region is a center of innovation, and home to strong financial services, health care and education sectors.Still, there is much work to be done. As the only regional business organization focused on improving the overall economic health and quality of life in all six New England states, The New England Council has several priorities for 2012, and we believe that through cross-sector, regional collaboration, we can bolster our region and continue on the path to recovery. • Encouraging strategic federal investment in region: The economies of the six New England states are tightly interconnected, and we must promote regional economic development by encouraging greater interstate collaboration. Leaders in all six states must come together to collectively advocate for strategic federal investment in the regional infrastructure systems, research and innovation networks and educational resources that develop skills needed in the future workforce. • Growing regional economic capacity: The region's business community should promote federal policies that encourage local business and manufacturing capabilities, particularly those that offer cross-regional economic development and opportunities for job creation. National trade policies that expand markets for New England products and services and regional "branding" initiatives that showcase the economic capacity of our six states should continue to be supported. • Advocating rational tax policy: Few would disagree that the time has come to update our archaic and complex federal tax code. The business community must work together to promote comprehensive federal tax policies that support the economy's productive capacity, encourage job creation and allow our region's businesses to compete globally. Congress should be encouraged, as it considers tax reform measures, to enact policies that operate with certainty across multiple business sectors, and to make modifications that simplify and make transparent federal tax laws. • Addressing Northeast energy costs: One of the biggest challenges for businesses large and small in New England is our region's high energy costs. Federal energy policies should be supported that enhance energy availability, efficiency and reliability in the region. At the same time, we must encourage policymakers to address the cost of gasoline, heating oil, natural gas and electricity by encouraging the development of both traditional and alternative energy sources. • Building future workers' skills: The region's business community must support federal education policies that help prepare our future workforce. This includes promoting core curriculum in science, technology and math skills, ensuring access to job skill training programs and encouraging partnerships between businesses and educational institutions. Business leaders should also strategize with state and local government leaders to develop ways to entice graduating students to remain in New England.This may sound to many like a very ambitious agenda. However, we know that when the business community in New England advocates with one voice on important federal policy issues, we can achieve great successes.James T. Brett is president and CEO of The New England Council.