BOSTON – Over the past several years, we have faced great economic challenges. Most of us are fortunate in New England to have weathered this period with less collateral damage than other parts of the country. Our regional unemployment rate continues to be below the national average, and there are many encouraging signs of growth. Our region is a center of innovation, and hosts strong financial-services, health-care and education sectors.
Still, there is much work to be done. As the only regional business organization focused on improving the overall economic health and quality of life in all six New England states, the New England Council is committed to working with our members and government leaders throughout our region to push public policy that promotes growth and supports our region’s unique economy. The council has several priorities for 2012, and we believe that through cross-sector regional collaboration we can bolster our region and continue on the path to recovery :
Encouraging Strategic Federal Investment in Region. The economies of the six New England states are tightly interconnected and we must promote regional economic development by encouraging greater interstate collaboration. Leaders in all six states must come together to advocate for strategic federal investment in the regional infrastructure systems, research-and-innovation networks and education resources that develop skills needed in the future workforce.
Expanding Regional Economic Capacity. The region’s business community should promote federal policies that encourage local business and manufacturing capabilities, particularly those that offer cross-regional economic development and opportunities for job creation. The New England Council will continue to support national trade policies that expand markets for New England products and services, and regional “branding” initiatives that showcase the economic capacity of our six states.
Advocating Rational Tax Policy. Few would disagree that the time has come to update our archaic and complex federal tax code. The business community must work together to promote comprehensive federal tax policies that support the economy’s productive capacity, encourage job creation and let our region’s businesses better compete globally. As Congress considers tax-reform measures, the council will encourage federal legislators to enact tax policies that operate with certainty across multiple business sectors, and to make modifications that simplify and make transparent federal tax laws.
Addressing Northeast Energy Costs. One of the biggest challenges is our region’s high energy costs. In the year ahead, the New England Council will work to promote federal energy policies that enhance energy availability, efficiency and reliability in the region. At the same time, we must encourage policymakers to address the cost of gasoline, heating oil, natural gas and electricity by encouraging the development of both traditional and alternative energy sources.
Building Future Workers’ Skills. Our region’s economic well-being depends on a skilled workforce. The region’s business community must support federal education policies that help prepare our future workforce. This includes promoting core curriculums in science, technology and math skills; ensuring access to job-skill-training programs, and encouraging partnerships between businesses and educational institutions. Business leaders should also strategize with state and local government leaders to develop ways to entice graduating students to remain in New England.
This may sound to many like a very ambitious agenda. However, we know that when the business community in New England advocates with one voice on important federal policy issues, we can achieve great successes. The New England Council looks forward to working on these priorities this year.
James T. Brett is president and chief executive of the New England Council, a nonpartisan alliance of public and private organizations throughout New England to promote economic growth.