Rowland Says State Economy
Little Changed By September 11
By David Bauman
Six months after the September 11 tragedies, Gov. John G. Rowland told a University of Connecticut audience that the terrorist attacks had little effect on Connecticut's economy, but have brought about real "spiritual changes" both in him and among state residents.
"I find that I slow down more, spend more time with family and friends, and with my kids," Rowland told about 250 students, faculty and businesspeople at a luncheon in the Rome Commons Ballroom. "9/11 has stirred in all of us a new appreciation for what is really important in life."
The governor's lecture on March 14 was the fourth in a lecture series on economics, sponsored by Greenwich Capital Markets, an investment banking firm with headquarters in Greenwich, Conn. The series brings prominent public figures to campus each year.
Rowland, who is expected to seek a third term in the November elections but has yet to announce his candidacy, recalled that some 180,000 jobs were lost during the recession in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the state was more dependent on the defense and insurance industries. He stressed that his administrati on's efforts to diversify the economy have placed Connecticut in a strong position to weather the recession that followed the September 11 attacks.
"We've prepared ourselves and diversified our economy," said Rowland, citing investments in education, urban areas, and specifically in the state's growing biomedical research and biotechnology sectors. "We've brought back the 180,000 jobs and then some," he said.
Rowland said September 11 has left us more appreciative of our nation and of each other: "The real fundamental change, post-9/11, has been in you and me. We're going to be a better generation because of this rude awakening.
"As a nation, we're a pretty resilient people," Rowland continued. He pointed to three events over the past two years that have "challenged our Constitution and system of democratic government, and our ability to be united."
The first two - the impeachment of President Clinton and the contested election of President George W. Bush - would in other countries have had "tanks rolling in the streets," Rowland said. "But our lives didn't change."
The third, September 11, Rowland called "one of the most tragic things that has ever happened to the United States. Yet we as a nation have responded with compassion, unity, warmth, and support," he said, "like nothing we've ever seen."
Dismissing "doom-and-gloom predictions" about the state's economy, Rowland insisted: "Post-9/11, we're in darn good shape. Our unemployment rate is 3.5 percent and that's in a down economy," he said. "In fact, we are not having an economic downturn. We're seeing a flattening, so we have to slow ourselves down a bit."
One state initiative Rowland vowed not to slow down is his $1.3 billion 21st Century UConn proposal that was recently submitted to the state legislature. The 10-year capital improvement program would commence when the UConn 2000 program ends in 2005.
Rowland noted that the investments to improve UConn's facilities have helped raise the school's reputation, so that it is now ranked the No. 1 public university in New England. "If anything, we should increase the momentum," he said.
UConn's growth is "the kind of investment we must make to raise the expectations and change the mindset in the entire state," Rowland declared. "Ten years ago, no one would have believed this campus could look as good as it does today.
"We want UConn to rank as the best public university in the nation, period," he added. "And we can do this. It's about raising expectations."