With investment awards totaling a cool $5 million, it’s not surprising that VentureClash attracts some of the world’s hottest startups to compete on its global stage. Beyond money, though, entrepreneurs may be wondering what else this tiny state, nestled between New York and Boston, has to offer. We sat down with Paul Pescatello, senior counsel and executive director of the Connecticut Bioscience Growth Council, to get his thoughts. (Pescatello is also a board member of Connecticut Innovations, which manages VentureClash).
VentureClash: Connecticut is touted as a great place to start a business thanks to its location, its universities, its rich sources of talent, and its quality of life. What else makes Connecticut an attractive option?
Paul Pescatello: This might seem surprising, but part of what makes Connecticut so attractive is its cost of living. Especially in the IT/tech and biotech sectors, the regions we compete with, such as Boston-Cambridge, New York City, San Diego, and San Francisco make Connecticut seem like a bargain. The relatively low cost and availability of Connecticut housing and our stellar public schools compare favorably to those areas.
VC: The state has been criticized for its high business costs. What’s being done to make Connecticut more business-friendly?
PP: In recent years, Connecticut has held the line by not adding to the cost of doing business here. Given the state’s budgetary woes and long-term fiscal obligations, the question businesses should be asking is, What does the future hold? The legislature and the governor appear to be making significant progress in mapping out a path to fiscal stability without adding to the costs that business face. That said, there is also proposed legislation that would add mandates and other costs to doing business in Connecticut. To the extent such efforts are tabled, businesses will gain confidence that costs will not increase and services will improve.
VC: Employers need skilled talent to succeed. What is the state doing to raise academic performance and close the achievement gap?
PP: Connecticut has made large investments in the University of Connecticut, in the state’s community colleges, and in setting STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) goals for K – 12 programs. These investments are paying off handsomely in terms of federal and private grants received by Connecticut institutions of higher education. HR professionals consistently report success in identifying the talent they need from Connecticut high schools, colleges, and universities.
VC: That’s great to hear! Let’s talk about state regs for a minute. The Connecticut Business & Industry Association’s website says that one of the best ways to accelerate Connecticut’s economic growth is to make it easier for job creators to cut through the red tape and comply with state regulations that are as consistent as possible with federal standards. Are we making progress in this area?
PP: We are. Connecticut economic development teams have made great strides in establishing ‘one stop shopping’ at state agencies, affording businesspeople the ability to bypass multiple decision points and streamline regulatory approvals. Similarly, state officials are very much aware of the need and have made progress in bringing state codes and standards into alignment with federal regulations. We hope to see even more streamlining in the future.
VC: Excellent! Can you talk about the state’s infrastructure? How does it compare with neighboring states?
PP: Compared to neighboring states, Connecticut’s infrastructure is adequate. That said, infrastructure across the Northeast is not optimal. Connecticut officials are very much aware of the need to upgrade our infrastructure, especially our roads, rail, air transport, and energy infrastructure.
VC: As far as resources go, what does the state offer businesses that are looking to move here?
PP: Connecticut offers an array of funding opportunities, tax incentives, and technical resources for all types of businesses. Low-cost loans and grants are available for everything from capital equipment to workforce development. State and municipal sources provide tax credits and development zone benefits. A wide range of programs that tap into local business expertise are offered, many of which focus on helping entrepreneurs and small businesses grow.
VC: Are there resources for startups that entrepreneurs may not know about?
PP: Yes, and the vibrant ecosystem can be easily tapped into via the programs of Connecticut’s many entrepreneurial organizations, such as the CBIA‘s Bioscience Growth Counsel, BioCT, and The Connecticut Technology Council. CTNext also offers services for entrepreneurs including mentoring, guidance on funding opportunities, and coworking spaces. UConn’s Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation maintains a directory of resources for aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners.
VC: Any advice for startups about how to succeed in Connecticut?
PP: They should get involved in the many trade and entrepreneurial organizations, like the CBIA, the CBIA Bioscience Growth Council, BioCT, the Connecticut Technology Council, etc. These organizations have rich veins of talent and experience that can enhance a business’ prospects and growth.
VC: Any advice for businesses that are considering relocating to Connecticut?
PP: Connecticut’s cost of living is actually far cheaper than the cities we compete with for new tech business formation. Connecticut’s public schools are high achieving and its housing stock is robust and a bargain compared to cities like Boston-Cambridge and New York City.
VC: Thank you, Paul.
PP: My pleasure.