Summer 2010 Issue of The Connecticut Economy: Summer Fun with a Dose of Reality

A rising tide of shopping and recreation activity along with a small surge in jobs offer hints that the recovery is making some waves. But the state’s budget crunch reminds us that it is still no day at the beach for Connecticut’s economy. With the economic climate improving, the Summer 2010 issue of ‘The Connecticut Economy: A University of Connecticut Quarterly Review’ explores the potential for baseball and winemaking to spur economic development. Mindful of the economic risks ahead, the magazine also examines the looming threat of the state’s unfunded pension liabilities.

A guest commentary by Robert Santy, President and CEO of the Connecticut Economic Resource Center, examines the convergence of forces that gave rise to the state’s 30 vineyards, making them a vibrant tourist draw and potential source of economic growth. Santy also spoke and responded to media questions at the June 8th press release of the summer issue at CERC’s Rocky Hill headquarters.

Rumor has it that Connecticut could be in line for a major-league baseball team. The state has a rich heritage of professional baseball (surely you recall the Hartford Dark Blues and the New Haven Elm Citys), and the Tampa Bay Rays — despite being perennial contenders in the American League East– cannot seem to attract a crowd in their current home. Executive Editor Steven Lanza analyzes the logic behind such a move and the potential benefits to the Nutmeg State of relocating the Tampa Bay team to “a geographic ‘sweet spot’ midway between Gotham and Beantown.”

Connecticut may need a good diversion: its unfunded liability for state retiree pensions and benefits totals $7,395 for every state resident, based on 2009 Census population figures. Compared with more populous states, Nutmeggers’ liability is 2.6 times New York’s, 3.2 times Massachusetts’, and 4.4 times California’s. Quarterly co-editor Arthur Wright and UConn economics professor emeritus Peter Barth examine the available “solutions” as Connecticut tries to honor its retirement promises to state employees.

Commercial winemaking in Connecticut began in the mid-1970s, and the industry, as in other states, has sought to encourage growth by promoting “wine tourism.” The spillover benefits of winemaking to other businesses–food, lodging, and entertainment–and its compatibility with farmland preservation goals might justify targeted subsidies or tax credits, similar to those offered to the film industry. Co-editor Dennis Heffley and graduate students Christopher Jeffords and Jeremy Jelliffe examine the features of winemaking that might warrant a public effort to promote its production, but they also note that such policies are not universally endorsed.

Other features of the summer issue include summaries of recent data and forecasts for the state’s largest labor market areas, as well as a centerfold map of public library resources and usage in each of the state’s 169 towns.

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