For Fairfield County to avoid getting “left behind,” community leaders need to embrace technology, diversity and the needs of the baby boomer generation, Christopher Bruhl, President and CEO of The Business Council of Fairfield County, told Greenwich Chamber members Wednesday morning.
In an overview of the county’s economic climate, Bruhl emphasized that the slow pace of change is no excuse to grow complacent. Just as a frog doesn’t notice it’s boiling when the temperature is increased gradually, Bruhl said, “the water is changing in Fairfield County and when we’re not aware of change, we get cooked.”
It’s the responsibility of business leaders and community members, such as the local chambers of commerce, to orient the region in the right direction, Bruhl told attendees.
“If we don’t take care of this place, if we don’t make our bed here, no one will,” he said. “The chamber connects you to this place so you’re owners, not guests.”
Citing data collected and analyzed by the business council’s staff, Bruhl referenced how few college-educated Connecticut residents earned their degrees in the state. Also, many students raised in Fairfield County leave for college and never return. “We’re exporting our generational continuity and exporting our sense of place,” he said.
The obligations of ownership that typically result from “our sense place,” Bruhl said, are crucial to readying Fairfield County for future success.
In large part, Fairfield County identifies itself more closely with New York City than with Hartford, Bruhl said, adding it might be time for southwestern Connecticut to “re-engage with Hartford.”
Through posing a series of questions to attendees, such as whether “growth is a threat or necessity,” to Fairfield County’s success, Bruhl encouraged them to accept changes likely to happen and begin preparing the region for them now through community planning.
Despite a “legacy of bad decisions,” in Fairfield County, Bruhl expressed optimism about its future.
“We’re not dumb,” he said. “We’ve thrived and changed for centuries; we’re going to keep changing.”
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