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Op-Ed: State Must Build on Strengths to Better Compete, By David P. Hess

HARTFORD Courant, Sunday, February 13, 2011

Job growth and global competitiveness are top priorities for our nation. They are for Connecticut, too. Connecticut has been Pratt & Whitney’s home for 85 years. It has been, and can continue to be, a good place to do the right kind of work in our offices, labs and factories.

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Job growth and global competitiveness are top priorities for our nation. They are for Connecticut, too. Connecticut has been Pratt & Whitney’s home for 85 years. It has been, and can continue to be, a good place to do the right kind of work in our offices, labs and factories.

Although we have heard a lot lately about the many challenges of doing business here, Connecticut is also famous for Yankee ingenuity. If the state and business community apply that ingenuity, we can find opportunities for transformation that can build a bright future for all of us.

Pratt & Whitney has been successful because generations of Pratt people continually transformed our company to take advantage of the opportunities challenging times present. Our state must do the same. For Connecticut to transform itself requires us to first realize the engine for job growth and prosperity is a healthy and vibrant business environment. A state committed to offering a strategic advantage for business, will inspire companies to employ the ingenuity that has allowed them to succeed in a ruthlessly competitive global marketplace.

No one moves forward looking in the rear view mirror. Well-intentioned attempts to expect or force manufacturers to operate as we did in the middle of the last century are doomed to fail, and will succeed only in either driving companies away — or driving them out of business. There are, however, 21st century global dynamics at work that can be turned to our advantage.

First, we must accept that routine manufacturing is now migrating to lower-cost regions. In the 21st century, our strengths are at the creative end, in the conceptualization of products, in engineering and development, in highly skilled manufacturing and even in the strength of our brand.

Another major trend is the growth of emerging markets. In the aerospace industry, growth will come predominantly from the Asia-Pacific region, much of it from China. This means we need a growing presence with our global customers, and often that requires we do a certain amount of work close to them. But in this economic climate, more business and greater profitability for Connecticut-based businesses is good for our state, even if the nature of the work done here is different.

Profits made around the world enable us to invest here to create the high-paying jobs that are right for a state like Connecticut. These are knowledge-based jobs: engineers, lawyers, business managers, financial experts and highly skilled machinists. Right now, we’re hiring hundreds of engineers here to support high-tech, knowledge-based work for our new industry-leading geared turbofan engine that was invented, engineered and developed here. Pratt & Whitney also creates jobs at some 600 suppliers in Connecticut and pays tens of millions in taxes. We have a big stake in Connecticut.

Connecticut, like the United States, has a lot going for it. We attract the best and brightest from all over the world. Our universities are unmatched. We reward innovation and initiative and are blessed with a stable rule of law and protection for intellectual property. And we reward innovators who take risks and make strategic investments.

We must capitalize on our strengths and build an environment that encourages companies to invest in Connecticut, or move here. It requires a focus on delivering a competitive advantage for business and minimizing disincentives to operating here. I sense a new attitude in the state, including the promise of enlightened leadership from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who has already significantly reached out to the business community. Gov. Malloy can go a long way toward making Connecticut more business-friendly if he focuses on the following:

  • • Connecticut’s tax structure must be stable and predictable. Set up a stable tax structure that encourages growth and the state will benefit from that growth.
  • • We need predictability in regulation, too. The legislature’s report on competitiveness stressed that we need a streamlined, inter-agency approach to regulation.
  • • Controlling energy and health-care costs, improving transportation and infrastructure and enhancing education are other opportunities to keep Connecticut competitive.

Businesses like Pratt & Whitney want to work in partnership with the governor and the state. We want to be the best-educated, smartest people doing the best work in the world, creating prosperity and security for the future.

We have the opportunity. Let’s seize it.

David P. Hess is president of Pratt & Whitney the East Hartford-based division of United Technologies Corp.

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