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Connecticut Economic Digest: April 2005 issue
Is Connecticut rising to the global economy challenge? | Town/City Profile: Westbrook | Housing Update

Is Connecticut rising to the global economy challenge?
By Mark Prisloe, Associate Economist, DECD

In an increasingly global economy, Connecticut's exports have shown that this State can compete with the best of them. Since exceeding defense spending in 1990, exports have significantly increased their role in the State's economy.

Annual exports in 2004 grew 5.2 percent from $8.14 billion to $8.56 billion. The export share of Gross State Product (GSP) was also sustained at an estimated 5.0 percent of GSP in 2004, up from 4.4 percent of GSP in 2003 and 4.8 percent in 2002, and down only slightly from 5.2 percent in 2001.

The downturn from 2001 through 2003 interrupted an otherwise steady upward trend. Despite this recent setback, Connecticut's export trend compared with that of the U.S. reveals favorable long-run growth, with Connecticut exports increasing 123 percent from 1988-2004.

Through 1994, the pace of Connecticut export growth actually exceeded that of the U.S. A similar ascent characterized 1995-2000, a period of widespread U.S. expansion. Such a pattern indicates the attractiveness of Connecticut's manufactured products and the ability of Connecticut's businesses to penetrate the international arena. Foreign sales represent products in demand and thus a consistent product mix portends future success.

What industries make up Connecticut's demonstrated export strength?

Connecticut's industrial mix of exports has remained remarkably stable. Noted especially for its transportation equipment, Connecticut's export industries have historically included industrial machinery, instruments, electronic and electrical equipment, chemicals and allied products. Transportation equipment's dominating share of State exports rose from 33 percent in 1990 to 39 percent in 2000. Though it has declined since then, it still ranked first in 2004 at 37.1 percent.

Transportation equipment, machinery, computer and electronic products, chemicals, and other miscellaneous manufactured commodities rank as Connecticut's top five exporting industries. Electrical equipment, fabricated and primary metals, plastics and paper products round out the top ten (Table A).

Table A
Rank NAICS Code Description ANNUAL 2002   ANNUAL 2003   ANNUAL 2004   CHANGE '02-'04    %
    TOTAL ALL INDUSTRIES 8,313,390,369 100.0% 8,136,442,912 100.0% 8,559,237,269 100.0% 5.2%
1 336 TRANSPORTATION EQUIPMENT 4,098,661,526 49.3% 3,298,120,804 40.5% 3,177,827,619 37.1% -3.6%
2 333 MACHINERY, EXCEPT ELECTRICAL 669,842,672 8.1% 784,385,175 9.6% 1,106,773,395 12.9% 41.1%
3 334 COMPUTER AND ELECTRONIC 760,014,025 9.1% 789,501,073 9.7% 803,610,886 9.4% 1.8%
4 325 CHEMICALS 499,870,878 6.0% 749,024,081 9.2% 608,180,192 7.1% -18.8%
5 339 MISC. MANUFACTURED GOODS 393,619,961 4.7% 486,357,200 6.0% 606,202,640 7.1% 24.6%
6 335 ELECTRICAL EQUIPMENT 316,323,026 3.8% 336,127,000 4.1% 469,688,632 5.5% 39.7%
7 332 FABRICATED METAL PRODUCTS 427,416,045 5.1% 440,492,618 5.4% 406,459,831 4.7% -7.7%
8 331 PRIMARY METAL 167,597,281 2.0% 203,147,476 2.5% 275,741,165 3.2% 35.7%
9 326 PLASTICS AND RUBBER 141,164,086 1.7% 137,605,218 1.7% 179,579,518 2.1% 30.5%
10 322 PAPER 174,905,724 2.1% 188,636,778 2.3% 165,849,925 1.9% -12.1%

Industrial machinery and computers remained Connecticut's second largest export at 12.9 percent in 2004. Of the State's five leading industries, electronic and electric equipment and transportation equipment were the fastest growing, expanding by 102 percent and 95 percent, respectively from 1990-2000. Machinery and computers, instruments, and chemicals also grew, but more slowly than Connecticut's average 67 percent for all industries from 1990-2000. In 2004, machinery became the fastest growing, remaining among the top ranked in dollar volume along with electrical equipment, primary metal, and plastics.

It is interesting to note how the gradual decline in the dollar volume of transportation equipment's exports over 2002-2004 contrasts with the steady growth in industrial machinery industry exports.

Future export composition: As previously noted, Connecticut's export industries have remained fairly consistent over time. Annual data, from 1988 to present, consistently show transportation equipment in the lead and the merchandise export composition is likely to remain stable throughout the next decade.

The dominance of transportation equipment such as aircraft, aircraft parts and engines, and helicopters may largely explain this. However, the significant presence of aerospace, primary and fabricated metal, and industrial machinery manufacturing shows the interconnectedness of industries since many of these are related as suppliers or are an integral part of the production of transportation equipment.

In 2004, Connecticut's merchandise exports also include optic, photo, medical and surgical instruments; electrical machinery; and plastics. Chemicals (including pharmaceuticals) also figured in the top 10 export commodities, but only computer products have gained a relatively larger share of the pie. Machinery, primary, and fabricated metal, and electrical equipment are still major contributors to Connecticut's exports.

Where does it all go?
Export destinations: The mix of Connecticut's top ten international trading partners has also exhibited consistency over the years. Canada has been the premier destination for Connecticut exports, absorbing 22 percent of all Connecticut international shipments in 2000 and one fifth ($1.7 billion) of all State merchandise exports in 2001. In 2004, Canada was still the number one destination for Connecticut exports, however their share has eroded as more and more developing economies enter the global marketplace.

The balance of the top ten export destinations are France, Germany, Mexico, United Kingdom, Japan, Singapore, Netherlands, Belgium, and Switzerland.

China and Korea are 11th and 12th, respectively. Although mainland China is one rank below Connecticut's top 10 export markets, it is climbing steadily. State exports to China shot up by 149.5% from 1998-2001. China's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) should boost opportunities for both Connecticut and other U.S. exporters.

Future trading partners: It is unlikely that Connecticut's long-standing pattern of trade with Canada and Europe will change dramatically over the next decade. However, the developing Asian economies, as well as those of Latin America, present expanding opportunities for Connecticut's exporters and represent a source for continued export growth for Connecticut. A failure to take advantage of emerging trade opportunities would put Connecticut at risk of losing market share to international competition.

How does Connecticut stack up?

Connecticut exports represented 1.1 percent of total U.S. exports in 2000 and 1.2 percent in 2001. The 2004 share declined slightly to 1.0 percent, however Connecticut can still boast of its ranking among the 50 states. Currently Connecticut ranks 26th, a position which has remained relatively stable throughout the data analysis period. Though geographically small, Connecticut's exports are three times the average of half of the states in the nation.

Connecticut vs. New England States

Connecticut was second only to Massachusetts among the New England states in total exports. Connecticut's 2004 exports topped $8.5 billion, making it nearly three times the level of exports of the next nearest competing New England state, Vermont. Canada is the number one export destination for every state in New England. Connecticut's total 2004 exports represent 21.2 percent of New England exports, compared with 54.0 percent for Massachusetts, 10.8 percent for Vermont, 6.2 percent for New Hampshire, 4.7 percent for Maine, and 3.1 percent for Rhode Island. Connecticut led only in transportation equipment exports. Electronic goods were the primary export from Massachusetts, Vermont, and Rhode Island, while New Hampshire's leading industry was industrial machinery, and Maine's was paper and allied products. New England exports, amounting to some $40.8 billion in 2004 as a whole, represented 5.3 percent of total U.S. exports.

Challenges ahead

There are challenges posed by the world economy underlying the trends in this report. Not the least among them are the larger role that rapidly advancing countries are playing.

It is apparent that exports will likely be an increasingly important factor in future economic growth in this progressively internationalized world. Anecdotal information and hard empirical statistics such as those presented in this article leave little doubt that Connecticut manufacturers are firmly part of the global economy. These companies must, however, continue to explore opportunities in the international marketplace, opportunities that will have a strong influence on demand for the State's labor and capital. If they fail to do so, we will certainly lose our current momentum and enviable competitive export position.

(Data Source: World Institute for Social and Economic Research)

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Town/City Profile: Westbrook
By Cynthia L. DeLisa, Research Analyst, DOL

Imagine … it's a sparkling sun-filled summer afternoon, and you're taking a barefoot walk on a warm sandy beach. Gentle cool breezes, peaceful sounds of rippling waves, fellow beachcombers playing in the sand and surf, makes you feel this is where you were always meant to be. Life here is a pleasure. ~ Thomas & Maryanne D., Westbrook, CT

Did you know? The public beach in Westbrook (West Beach) is one of the longest town-owned beaches in Connecticut. Lenny & Joe's Fish Tale restaurant in Westbrook, as judged by Connecticut Magazine's 'Best of Connecticut 2004', serves up the best fried clams and lobster roll sandwiches in the State.


As recounted by town historian Michael Wells, the origins of Westbrook, like all of New England, are found in Puritan forebears fleeing their homeland for religious freedom. Westbrook is now a summer showplace of sail and motorboats and boasts a rich maritime history. There is one constant in Westbrook - its people. "Westbrook is what the people who have lived here, and are living here today, have made it," Wells says. "If history is, as Thomas Carlyle once wrote, the biography of great men, then the history of a small town is the history of the great persons who shaped it along the way." Wells refers to such great persons as Westbrook's heroes, such as John A. Holbrook, who helped forge a 20th century town from a 19th-century one. First selectman, state representative, state senator, and veteran of two European wars, Holbrook convinced the State to build an armory in Westbrook (an important thing at the time); helped create and preserve the town beach; brought the State police barracks to town and then fought to keep it there. Another notable Westbrook resident and American Revolutionary War patriot, David Bushnell, born in 1740, invented a vessel he dubbed the "Turtle": the first submarine.

Economy & Employment

Westbrook had a population of 6,583 in 2003, and in 2004 its labor force was 3,783 strong, with an unemployment rate of 3.3%. Maritime is the town's principal industry, along with fishing, electronics, aircraft and missile parts, marinas, summer resorts, and retail. In 2004, the median household income was $59,506, which was higher than the statewide median household income of $58,438.

In 2002, the top 5 major employers in Westbrook (according to CERC Town Profile 2004) included: The Lee Company, leading producer of miniature precision fluid control components for aerospace, medical/scientific instrumentation, and ink-jet printing; IPC Communications, Inc., an innovative global provider of mission-critical communications systems and services for the global financial community, government, public safety, energy and utilities, and transportation arenas; Valley-Shore YMCA, a community-based social and recreational center for youth, teens and adults; Water's Edge Resort & Spa which boasts endless amenities, and the BEST Sunday Brunch in the State; and the Daisy Ingraham Primary School which was given the National 'Blue Ribbon School Program' award in 1998-99.

The Warren Group, publisher of the Commercial Record, has indicated that the number of Westbrook homes sold during the first half of 2004, as compared to the first half of 2003, increased 24% from 49 to 61 sales. During that period, the median home sales price increased from $274,000 to $300,000, a 9.5% increase.

Community Development

In 2002, the federally funded 2001 Small Cities Community Development Block Grant Program awarded the Town of Westbrook $500,000 to convert a 50-year old former school building into the Teresa Mulvey Municipal Center, Westbrook's new town hall. In 2003, $650,000 of 'Small Cities' funds was granted to create a senior center within the Teresa Mulvey Municipal Center. And in 2004, $525,000 of the program's funds were awarded to the Westbrook Public Library for 'American Disability Act' improvements. Westbrook will soon have its first supermarket-Stop & Shop. Not a Super Stop & Shop however, in an effort to least disturb the wetlands on both sides of the proposed site on Flat Rock Place.

Westbrook truly is as it boasts: 'a friendly port' - a wonderful place to live, work, and visit.

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Housing Update
State Housing Permit Update

The Bureau of Census has changed its practice of collecting housing permit data from all of Connecticut municipalities. The Bureau has informed DECD, with the release of the February data, that it will only be collecting permit information from 128 Connecticut municipalities on a monthly basis. As the monthly data collected and released by the Bureau of Census will now be incomplete, DECD can no longer issue a statewide housing permit analysis. DECD will now post the information it receives from the Bureau of Census on its website (under “Latest News”) as soon as it is available. Press releases will no longer be issued on a monthly basis.

The Bureau of Census has indicated that each May they will be releasing annual housing permit data for all of Connecticut’s municipalities for the previous calendar year. DECD will release this data with its analysis to the media at that time.

Anybody interested in receiving housing permit data via e-mail can write to Kolie Sun at Ms. Sun will e-mail the data near the end of each month.

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Published by the Connecticut Department of Labor, Office of Research
Last Updated: April 5, 2005