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Modern Economic Development with a Focus on Inclusivity

Posted on by Rachel Gretencord

In years past, economic development focused primarily on job creation and GDP growth as ways to measure progress. While these are still important measures, modern economic development practices have expanded to include a focus on inclusivity—making sure that economic benefits and an improved standard of living accrue to residents across the spectrum, and not just to those in select categories.

Similarly, the changing nature of work means that community characteristics such as broadband access, educational networks, and quality healthcare are as important as traditional infrastructure such as roads and railways. As such, many economic development organizations have expanded the benchmarks they use to measure “success” to include a broader array of metrics.

This trend is also reflected in some of the popular state rankings. While these metrics (out of necessity) reduce a complex interaction to a few measurable statistics, when examined in context they can give states an idea of how they compare to their peers; in what areas they are doing well, and where they might be able to improve. US News and World Report is one popular source for such rankings; their “Best States” list (https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/rankings) includes performance measures of health care, education, the economy, infrastructure, opportunity, fiscal stability, crime and corrections, and the natural environment as broad indicators of which states are performing well for their residents.

In this list, Connecticut is ranked 21st overall, with high scores in health care (#3 overall, including #1 in the subcategory of health care access); the natural environment (#6); crime and corrections (#7); and education (#12, including #5 in the pre-k through 12th grade subcategory). Connecticut ranked among the middle states for economy and opportunity (#30 and #33, respectively), with high economic rankings in the business environment category (driven by company headquarters, venture capital, and patents, but lower marks for entrepreneurship and tax burden), but lower growth. The opportunity category reminded us that Connecticut enjoys high household incomes and low poverty rates overall (ranked #5 in both categories), but also has notable employment gaps, particularly with regard to race and disability, and a relatively higher cost of living. Lower rankings in infrastructure and fiscal stability (#46 in both categories) were driven by higher electric costs and lower usage of renewable sources, and poor short-term fiscal stability (#50), respectively.

Taking a more comprehensive view is a good reminder that while there is work to do to continue to improve our economy, there is also much to be celebrated about our state.