Connecticut’s cities were the glories of their time. Handsome and self-reliant, well-built and functional, they were economic dynamos, often known by the products they made: The Hat City, Brass City, Silk City, etc. These cities made the state strong. And then the U.S. won World War II.
We will travel to cities in other states that are dealing with the same issues Connecticut cities face, to compare notes and see if there are ideas that might be useful here.
The state Department of Economic and Community Development measures “Fiscally and economically distressed” cities and towns by ranking all 169 of them based on nine factors including poverty, unemployment, per capita income, job creation and others.
Connecticut’s heavy reliance on local property taxes may have made sense when the cities had large industries that could share the burden, but the loss of those factories puts cities behind the eight ball. The struggling cities have the highest mill rates and lowest per capita incomes, with few exceptions.
But there is a new interest in cities, from young people, entrepreneurs and others, and a new federal program, Opportunity Zones, aimed at promoting investment in distressed areas. Connecticut must take this tide on the flood. Reviving the state’s distressed municipalities can bring more opportunity and a stronger economy, and should be a top priority.
As with cities across the country, there are feet on the street, new homes, signs of new life. The Cities Project, a collaboration between CT Mirror, Connecticut Public Radio, Hearst Connecticut Media, Hartford Courant, Republican-American of Waterbury, Hartford Business Journal, and Purple States, will publish periodic articles exploring challenges and solutions related to revitalizing Connecticut’s cities.