TIMPANELLI TOPICS ARCHIVE

TIMPANELLI TOPICS: July 2016

TIMPANELLI TOPICS - Issue 2016-07

Dear Members,

Readers may recall my last Timpanelli Topics  referenced some of the major changes that have taken place within Bridgeport, the central city of our economic region.

Nearly 25 years of change has dramatically altered the face of Bridgeport ­ positioning the City and Region for jobs growth.

Over that period of time, the Bridgeport Regional Business Council's work in partnership with the city and the state has resulted, or will eventually result, in the creation of about 27,000 job opportunities. A clear demonstration of the success of our work to fulfill the organization's mission.

I know most of you might react to the 27,000 job opportunities number in disbelief because our unemployment rate remains one of the highest in the state and many businesses have vacated the area over that period of time.

First, let's be clear that the 27,000 is not a today number but a forecast that includes initiatives that are underway. This is not a net number, but a number that has resulted from new or planned development activity and it does not include the jobs lost during the period.

Nonetheless, our success can be measured by the fact that the environment for jobs growth has improved and, as a result of an analysis we completed at the end of 2013, we can demonstrate where that growth has occurred. The BRBC has been an important catalyst in this metamorphosis of Bridgeport and the Region.

In my last column, I inventoried a number of major initiatives that the BRBC is engaged in that improved the City's physical landscape. These initiatives include the Sports and Entertainment complex, Steelpointe, the State Street Corridor, the relocation of Housatonic Community College, the work along Seaview Avenue and the whole East Side Corridor, including Lake Success, the Barnum Train Station, and the Inter-modal Transportation Project. These improvements/initiatives have all positioned the city to secure more private investment.

Over the last 20­ to 25 years, we can clearly demonstrate that over $1 billion of public investment has occurred here. As a result, we can demonstrate that well over $3 billion in capital investment ­ both public and private ­ will have been made here once the projects that we and the City have identified as priorities have been completed. 

These numbers are in keeping with what occurs with urban transformation. Older, industrial urban centers such as Bridgeport, Cleveland, and Providence, which have a myriad of development roadblocks, are but some examples of cities that require significant public investment to transform. Buying and cleaning up properties, rebuilding public infrastructure, supporting housing expansion, and supporting thematic developments that create visitation, such as our Sports/Entertainment Complex at Harbor Yard, are the result.

Every dollar of public investment typically results in two dollars of private investment.

Bridgeport, believe it or not, has now surpassed that ratio. We can show how the City has achieved, or will soon achieve, more than two dollars of private investment for every one dollar of public investment made.

Our analysis shows the following:

  • From 1995 through 2013 there were over 150 capital investment projects of significance completed in Bridgeport; 
  • These projects resulted in about $2.1 billion in capital investment; 
  • Of the $2.1 billion, $1.12 billion was private investment and almost $1 billion was public money; 
  • These investments resulted in over 12,000 jobs created or retained; 
  • These investments resulted in almost $24 million in added tax revenue to the city. 

The analysis also concluded the following:

  • There are an additional 40 capital investments projects planned, not including seven "major" projects that are on the drawing boards; 
  • When completed, these projects will result in another $600 million in capital investment, 60% of which is private money, 6,000 new or retained jobs, and over $5 million in added tax revenue.

Lastly, many of the seven projects on the drawing boards are, in fact, now underway:

  • The Ferry Relocation, the Barnum Train Station, the Corvus Capital project on the West End, Downtown North, the "Eco-­Technology Park", Lake Success and the GE site, and the Steelpointe, or "Bridgeport Landing" project.

When completed, these projects will result in: 

  • Approximately $1.7 to $2.1 billion in capital investment; 
  • Approximately $15 million in added real estate tax revenue for the city and over 8,000 in estimated job growth. 

To summarize, from 1995 ­ 2013 Bridgeport has achieved putting in place an economic development success record that will soon result in over $5 billion in capital investment that will result in over $46 million in added tax revenue and over 27,000 job opportunities. 

I know, the naysayers will say either "I don't see it" or "I don't feel it because my taxes are still too high".

If your answer is" I don't see it", I recommend a drive down State Street or Stratford Avenue between the two rivers, or sections of the downtown and compare your view to 10 to ­15 years ago. 

Better yet ­ give me a call. I will share all the details with you project by project, dollar by dollar. 

If your answer is "I don't feel it because my taxes are still too high", unfortunately, you are right. Your taxes are still too high, but one of the ways taxes will be reduced is for the "on the drawing boards" projects to be completed.

But the real culprit in terms of your taxes being too high is the outmoded, outdated, unfair way in which Connecticut is structured regarding how our municipalities raise most of their revenue, through our property tax.

Because Bridgeport is only about 16 square miles in area, and fully 8 square miles of that area is not taxable, and of the remainder that is, a good portion is under­-performing real estate because of its contaminated state, Bridgeport ­ as is true with all of Connecticut's cities ­ is at a major disadvantage it terms of the taxability of its real estate. Ultimately, that's the problem that needs to be addressed as we continue to work on economic development and building the tax base. 

While we can demonstrate that Bridgeport has made great progress, we are still a long way from becoming the economic center and driver of our region. Once that occurs, Bridgeport's residents will be better served, including tax relief. 

Although, I have mixed feelings about my own transition from the BRBC, I do not have mixed feelings about the future of Bridgeport. 

I am confident in the ability, will and spirit of its people as well as its leadership. There are a lot of great people in Bridgeport. It is a City built on strong bones and good character. It is a City that can overcome whatever challenges it is faced with.

And I am confident that the leadership of the City will work hard, work straight, and continue to work with the business community on Bridgeport's revitalization. 

I look forward to sharing some further thoughts on the opportunities I see for the future of the city and the region in the next edition of Timpanelli Topics. Until then, feel free to connect with me at timpanelli@brbc.org.

Sincerely,
Paul S. Timpanelli
President and CEO
Bridgeport Regional Business Council