Opinion

Region Needs a Healthy Hartford

Editorial

We’re certain there are some — perhaps many — in this area taking some kind of fiendish delight in the sorrows being visited upon Connecticut’s capital city.

As detailed in several recent reports, Hartford is on the ropes in many respects. It is in financial disarray and near bankruptcy, as Springfield was 15 years ago. Crime is a huge problem, and one that’s getting worse. The insurance industry, which has been the city’s lifeblood (and its identity), continues to downsize. And now, it appears that Aetna, a corporation that means as much to Hartford as MassMutual does to Springfield, will be relocating its corporate offices out of the city.

These are very trying times for the city, and, as we said, it would be easy for people in and around Springfield to exercise some schadenfreude as they read these reports.

After all, the cities have been involved in some form of rivalry for decades now, real or imagined. That famous quip from a Hartford scribe about the Fort being “that sausage restaurant” aside, the cities have measured themselves against one another for some time, even if the comparisons are somewhat unnatural.

Indeed, Hartford is a capital city and remains the insurance capital of the country, if not the world, and home to many more large corporate entities than Springfield. The rivalry has been real, though, and this recent decline in Hartford’s fortunes comes as the needle in Springfield continues to point up — in most all ways.

As skeptical as we’ve sometimes been about the so-called Knowledge Corridor and the practice of putting Hartford and Springfield together in the same sentence and the same marketing materials, such a partnership likely remains the best method for achieving growth in this larger region.”

Indeed, a $950 million casino complex will be opening in just over a year, Union Station is staging a rebirth, a new innovation center is opening downtown, and there appears to be momentum everywhere one looks.

So it’s time to gloat. Only, it isn’t.

As skeptical as we’ve sometimes been about the so-called Knowledge Corridor and the practice of putting Hartford and Springfield together in the same sentence and the same marketing materials, such a partnership likely remains the best method for achieving growth in this larger region.

As we’ve noted before, in this era of supercharged competition for jobs and companies, numbers are all-important. Springfield’s numbers — and its overall image — may be improving, but to compete with other states and metropolitan regions, it can’t rely on its numbers (or its improved health) alone.

But putting Springfield’s numbers together with Hartford’s is only part of the story. The cities — and the region as a whole — needs to be an appealing landing spot, especially for the young people who are increasingly dominating the workforce. And at present, Hartford is becoming increasingly less appealing to that demographic.

Meanwhile, a healthier Hartford bodes better for Springfield and other communities on this side of the border in many ways, including jobs and commerce — most companies near the border do plenty of business on both sides of the line.

So while it might be tempting for those in the 413 to take some kind of satisfaction in Hartford’s woes, that isn’t the attitude we should be taking.

If we want to start calling it the Springfield-Hartford region or the Springfield-Hartford corridor, that’s fine, but Western Mass. needs a healthy Connecticut capital city if it is going to build on its current momentum.

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